The Dark Other – Stanley G. Weinbaum

The_Dark_Other_-_Stanley_Weinbaum_cover

Pat is a beautiful young woman with many admirers. Nick is a young man with a secret. When his dark side interferes with their burgeoning love, things turn grim, and psychologist Carl Horker has to intervene.

Most people, including me, know of Stanly Weinbaum from his great debut story, “A Martian Odyssey”. He wrote a dozen other, mostly good, short storiesas well. I also recently read one of his novels, The New Adam, an effective if somewhat clinical thought experiment. I had fair hope, therefore, for this book.

It seems The Dark Other was written in the 1920s, well before Weinbaum published his first story. He would have been in his late teens or early twenties, and it shows , vividly. To be blunt, this is a bad book. The story is thin, Weinbaum relies heavily on weak gimmicks, and the characters are of pretty stiff cardboard. Perhaps unsurprisingly for the time, the sexism is rampant. Even for the 1920s, talk of Pat’s “clear, active little mind” is hard to take, as are the repeated comments that “every woman has a little masochism in her”. The plot wraps up in a way that the coming Hollywood would approve of, and with a deus ex machina that a theater would envy.

In short, a decidedly disappointing, even dismal effort from a writer who turned out some pretty good stuff. I can’t recommend this to anyone. If you’re a true Weinbaum fanatic, and have to read everything he ever read, don’t read this. It’s in the same territory as Roger Zelazny’s The Dead Man’s Brother – all it can do is tarnish your memory of a talented author. For everyone else, just pass this by. Not worth your time, and not representative of anything but an inexperienced young man who’d later write some pretty good stuff.

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