Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Book Review: Fantastic Voyage by Isaac Asimov

Based on the screenplay by Harry Keliner, which was made from David Duncan’s adaptation of the story by Otto Klement and Jay Lewis Bixby.

Pros: more plot explanation and characterization than the film, ending retains scientific integrity, interesting plot

Cons: sexist treatment of female protagonist

Benes, a scientist fleeing a nameless enemy world power, arrives safely in the US but is injured in an attack.  In order to save his life and gain the secrets he brings, a submarine and crew of experts must be shrunk to microscopic size in order to operate on a brain clot.

This is a fairly close novelization of the film of the same name.  The biggest changes come in the form of a prolonged introduction where the patient is more thoroughly introduced and the necessity of saving him better explained.  The ending, too, was adjusted so that the scientific principles of the story retained their integrity.

The characters are better drawn in the book as well, as there’s more time to get to know them.  Cora Peterson is portrayed as a competent technician, even though the men around her - with the exception of Dr. Duval, whom she works for - see her beauty, not her brains.  Something she comments on with irritation,

“Her mirror told her, plainly enough, that she was not plain.  Quite otherwise.  Her dark eyes were ingenuously wide-set; her lips reflected quick humor when she let them do so - which wasn’t often; and her figure annoyed her for its apparent propensity for interfering with the proper understanding of her professional competence.  It was for her ability she wanted wolf-whistles (or their intellectual equivalent) and not for the sinuosity she couldn’t help.” 

And predictably, the leading man of the film, a secret agent, Grant, has trouble seeing her as anything but an object of flirtation, even when she - at the beginning at least - constantly rebuffs him.  I do give Asimov props though, for explaining the reason for her coldness towards Grant and his attentions, in a way that shows what an ass he is at times.  Grant is, of course, not the only one who objects to having a ‘girl’ on the mission or treating her as somehow feebleminded despite her abilities. 

The descriptions of the workings of the inner body that the characters pass are interesting, and are broken up well by the variety of problems the crew face.  There are a lot of tense scenes, and some action before the climax.

It’s a quick and interesting read.


John D. said...

Fwiw, the story behind the novelization: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fantastic_Voyage#Novelization

Jessica Strider said...

Cool, thanks!