Monday, 17 August 2009

Nearly Neptune by Hugh Walters

Review #11 looking back at the old and largely forgotten science-fiction series Chris Godfrey of UNEXA.

For his next adventure, Chris returns to space at which point we encounter the biggest disappointment of the series. After systematically exploring every planet in the solar system, usually with an alliterative title, every schoolboy fan was eagerly awaiting Chris going off to search for Uranus. The hours of fun to be had from just holding a book with Probe to Uranus or Find Uranus on the front cover were immeasurable. Sadly, the British space program decided that sending four blokes and a top-notch gal off on a two-year mission to explore the rings around Uranus might not be a good use of public money. So they decided they should head for Neptune instead in Nearly Neptune (pub 1968).

This was the last of the great Chris Godfrey books, and possibly the best, although as I was on the verge of getting too old to read them any more I didn't like this as much as the Venus tale. The story opens with a great hook of an opening line: 'Chris Godfrey is dead.' A good attention grabber there!

Chris isn’t dead of course, but before we learn the truth, we backtrack a bit. For this mission, cryogenics are required to survive the long journey. The lads, minus the gal as chilly Neptune is no place for a gal (and besides if a telepathic twin went on the mission she'd ruin the story by telling her twin everything... or then again it might just have been that she was a gal), are put into suspended animation and sent off to Neptune. Sadly, when they are halfway there the teapot overheats and a fire breaks out on board. Everyone wakes up coughing and by the time they've opened the windows and let the smoke out, they are in big trouble.

One of the suspended animation booths is ruined, they have little air, little food, little water and they're heading in the wrong direction slowly with no way to turn back until they've gone around Neptune, a journey of a year both ways. With the situation looking dire, Chris volunteers to not go into suspended animation and to die bravely.

Everyone quickly agrees to this plan as by this stage in the series they've had enough of him commanding every flaming mission into space and them being the only astronauts on the planet who are allowed to explore anything. So they quickly go to sleep before he can change his mind.

Chris passes his time before he dies bravely by avoiding switching on the radio. He scoffs up all the food, but by the time the ship arrives at Neptune, he's so weak and cold he can't summon the energy to wake everybody up to have a look at the planet. So he takes some snap-shots and sketches a few drawings of what everything looks like to help the scientists back home do important scientific stuff. Then he keels over from hunger and cold.

Luckily though, he's so cold and weak he falls into natural suspended animation. For a year he travels back to earth frozen like a giant icicle in the ruined ship and he doesn’t wake up until the sun thaws him out, conveniently just as the ship is about to enter earth orbit. Chris's alive, the world cries, and so the adventures can continue.

Next week Chris has another go at finding Uranus.

1 comment:

LouiseE said...

My favourite book of a fantastic series. I am so glad I'm not the only one that remembers them! And the best part is the books are fairly easy to get hold of and not too pricey, so I'm rereading them all again.
Yes, there are incredible howlers and continuity errors, but so what? Love 'em.
Thanks for bringing them back from the grave.
Now I'm waiting for the films.