Many years ago when I was a teenager I strictly read science fiction novels, many by the well reputed giants of the craft, names like Heinlein, Asimov, Clark, Van Vogt and Simak. One very consistent SF writer that I always thought was as good but never got the recognition some of the others got was Edmond Hamilton.
His book, The Haunted Stars has stayed with me through the years and so I picked up and read a used copy of it last month. First published in 1962, writing styles have morphed over the years and with the advent of the word processor, novels became longer but this 159 page novel still stands on it's own. This book was written during the cold war and it reflects a competition between those conflicting ideologies.
America and the Soviet Union have both reached the moon, albeit in separate missions landing in different locations. Both are setting up bases for lunar exploration but American explorers stumble across a lunar space station which is intact but has been damaged by a space battle. There are no corpses, no weapons, no spaceships. The only thing they know is that the station is its age - thirty thousand years old! Older that the recorded history of mankind.
The Americans see this discovery as a way to get a leg up on the Soviets. They create, as quickly as possible, an interstellar ship, by combining technology they find at the station with what they already know. Then they send a small crew on a mission to a portion of space that has been ascertained as the home solar system of those who built the Lunar Space Station.
They know not, what they'll find when they get there, if they get there, but what they do find is certainly not what they expected.
The Haunted Stars is one of the few books that I have gone back and read, which was as good as I remember. In 1962, when Haunted Stars was written, The Lord of the Rings had recently been published and the Fantasy genre, which later seemed to decimate the sci-fi genre had yet to become established. Then science fiction meant science fiction and most sci-fi novels took place in space, or in the future.
These were heady formative times for science fiction and some of the great science fiction of all time were penned in the fifties and sixties: Frank Herbert's masterpiece - Dune, Issac Asimov's classics - Foundation and Robot series, Robert Heinlein's Starship Troopers, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress and many more. Of course everyone has read Arthur Clarke's 2001 Space Odyssey or seen the movie but he wrote a dozen good books before that 1968 publication including the classic - Childhoods End.
I enjoy a good fantasy novel but it seems everybody is writing Fantasy now and hardly anyone is writing good science fiction anymore.
Haunted Stars is a short concise novel of only 159 pages. It is a quick read but the characters, mostly out of necessity, are not well developed. This is something that have noticed in older books, which tended to be shorter. Either the story was shorter of there was much less detail. Of course now days we are spoiled since with the advent of word processors and computer a four hundred page book is now the norm instead of the rare exception. I have read three books by Edmund Hamilton and though the plots and stories are great, his writing is succinct and to the point, without much humor. This particular book which actually attempts to explore a possibility for the beginnings of the human race is a very well done captivating read which I heartily recommend.