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  • Writer's pictureMartyn Rhys Vaughan


Now that the Magellan has been safely launched on her two-century journey to Alpha Centauri we can resume our examination of themes in SF.

Specifically, we return to the topic of enemies of the human race who hide behind cloaks of invisibility. And now it is the turn of Murray Leinster’s Gizmos.

We will deal with Leinster in more detail on another occasion. Suffice it to say he was an amazingly prolific writer in many fields, not just SF, and covered many of the standard tropes of the latter, usually in a fresh and vigorous fashion.

In April 1958 Satellite Science Fiction published a novella entitled “The Strange Invasion”, which Leinster later revised and published as novel – “War With Gizmos.” In the context of the novel, ‘gizmo’ refers to unexplained radar contacts.

The novel begins with the omniscient narrator explaining that the opening shots of the war began in the high peaks of the Rockies and went unnoticed by humanity. Bears, wildcats, mountain sheep were among the first victims. But as the assailants expanded their activities they inevitably came into contact with people. The first they encountered was Dick Lane, sports writer, plying his trade in the mountains. While examining the corpses of dead animals—which have no marks of violence upon them—he hears a whining noise, feels a light gossamer-like touch on his face and then finds he cannot breathe. He tumbles into the undergrowth which somehow frees him from his invisible attacker. He encounters woman scientist Professor Warren—who is not attractive—camping out in the mountains with her niece Carol—who is.

Warren has noticed a number of inexplicable deaths among the local fauna.

Eventually the trio discover they are under attack by invisible gaseous creatures which they name ‘gizmos’ after the inexplicable things shown on radar screens.

They gradually discover that the gizmos are not intelligent and are the result of a parallel form of evolution on Earth. The gizmos are attracted to animal corpses and feed on the putrefaction. However, Carol remembers that a species of parrot in Australia suddenly developed a new mode of feeding, by attacking sheep in order to feed on their livers. She theorises that recently some gizmos realised that they did not have to wait for animals to die but could speed things up by killing them. And that realisation is diffusing through the vast population of hitherto harmless gizmos.

The story is fast-moving and seems not to be indebted to any previous fiction. The climax is a little unconvincing, but that is a minor quibble.

“War With The Gizmos” is a fine example of the ‘Conflict with Invisible Enemies ‘ genre.

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