Lost Voices 20: The Space Egg by Russ Winterbotham
The Space Egg
By Russ Winterbotham
The Space Egg
Synopsis: It is probably the late 1950s and a privately financed rocket-plane hits ‑something- in the upper atmosphere. When the plane lands, the pilot, Jack Fayburn, appears to be ok despite two holes in the airplane and one through his pressure suit. As soon as he exits the plane, it is obvious that something has changed him but just in case the reader is slow, he assaults one of the ground crew before leaving. The only clue is what looks like a smashed china egg, the space egg of the title.
Soon after, the stupider of the two women on-base, Ruby Cascade, disappears. When she reappears, she also has changed, although not out of her bathing suit, which she will wear for the rest of the book. A dead body turns up: the mechanic the pilot hit. On investigation, the local sheriff discovers that the mechanic shot Jack, who is now impervious to the effects of bullets and Ruby then shot the mechanic. The sheriff also finds out Jack is super-strong, as he gets beat up by Jack and has his gun taken away. This peeves him deeply, but before the sheriff can organise a reaction, Jack and Ruby disappear. A search fails to turn them up right away, although they eventually turn out to be hiding on the roof of the building. After a failed negotiation with them, which ends with another dead body, they announce that nobody can leave the building: anyone who does will be killed.
A film was taken of the flight. The developed film appears by airplane and another character gives up his life to get the film, very carefully refusing [-not- forgetting] to tell the pilot what is going on. By this time, they have figured out that Jack and Ruby are possessed by an alien life form. With the film, the scientist figures out that the alien beings are ‑antimatter- beings who have possessed the humans, part of the evidence being the black photons seen on the film. An x‑ray apparatus is built to kill the two possessed people. When a third person is possessed, it is used to kill him, although it is destroyed in the fight. They fall back on the tried and true method of shooting the pair a lot. More people get killed although not the possessed pair, who are still bullet proof. Finally, someone points out to Jack he actually preferred Janet, the brunette, to Ruby, the red head. Appalled at his faux pas, Jack kills Ruby and himself in a wild display of cheap special effects. Humanity is saved.
You wouldn’t think a book this short could be this boring but Winterbotham managed to cram about 1600 pages worth of dull into only 140 pages. I tried to entertain myself by looking for sentence fragments [common: I think it was a stylistic choice] or gross sexism [also common] but even that failed. The sad thing is I read this book in 1970 and the memory of it has permeated my brain like a very implausibly explained antimatter energy being ever since. Ah well, better The Space Egg than American Psycho or Hannibal .
Winterbotham had a ‑lot- of writing experience: He wrote for ASF and he wrote many, many Little Big Books. It says a lot about the poverty of the SF field in the 1950s and 1960s that books this awful could be published in quantity but Winterbotham’s career is the proof. Presumably his death in the early 1970s ended his career.