Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Getting To Grips With The Makeshift Rocket

I have again had to resort to a dictionary, or to google used as a dictionary, when reading Poul Anderson: "...herpetarium..." on p. 71 of The Makeshift Rocket (New York, 1962). (My computer does not recognize it.)

Since the main point of this short work is a spaceship propelled by heated beer, it is a pity that the ship is not constructed until about two thirds of the way through the text. Now that I have got that far, I can see that the cover illustration (see attached image) faithfully reproduces the description in the text. It shows the makeshift rocket escaping from a conventional spacecraft in orbit around an asteroid.

If I have understood the technical description correctly, then the astronaut with his space-suited head, arms and torso emerging from the front of the rocket drives the ship by turning the peddles of his bicycle. The alternative title is "A Bicycle Built For Brew." The ship, improvised in an emergency, needs only to make the short crossing between two asteroids orbiting in the same cluster. Thus, it need not cope, for example, with heavy acceleration or with planetary gravitational fields.

Back in the conventional spaceship, Rory and Emily have just become engaged but he must try to recapture the beer-powered escapees while she must try to help them since national loyalties accompany humanity into space. A few years ago, I was a trade union shop steward in an office where a woman much younger than me had become the manager. I had to encourage industrial action that would disrupt the work of the office whereas she had to counteract any attempted disruption. Fortunately, friendship was stronger than this unhappy situation and continues now that I am retired.

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