Throughout the book Astounding, Nevala-Lee smoothly interweaves a wide variety of sources, written and oral, as he tracks the careers of his four Golden Age giants ... Did you know that Heinlein, Asimov and L. Sprague de Camp all worked together in a Philadelphia Navy laboratory during World War II? Or that Heinlein practiced nudism and open marriage?
Nevala-Lee presents a necessary addition to the history of science fiction: a critical look at the life and work of John W. Campbell, legendary editor of Astounding magazine and the central architect of science fiction’s golden age....Part biography, part history, Astounding covers Campbell’s relationships with his most important writers; their tumultuous personal lives; the role their wives played in their careers; and the effect WWII and the atomic bomb had on the genre ... At times, it feels like Nevala-Lee attempts to accomplish too much, and the mix of history with biography isn’t always comfortable, but it’s all necessary to understand how science fiction became what it is today.
In Astounding... biographer Alec Nevala-Lee draws an exquisite portrait of a flawed and misguided man who seemed not to understand the true power of what he had created ... This account, though carefully researched and impartially presented, is unlikely to inspire hero worship. Yet miraculously, out these broken lives and troubled minds emerged the glory and beauty that is the science fiction genre ... Nevala-Lee does a marvelous job of presenting these authors as they truly were, with all of their genius and all of their flaws. This biography should catch the fascination of any serious science fiction reader, since the balance of human achievement and failure is itself a major focus of the genre.
[No book on the golden age of science fiction], even the best, have synthesized all the others and chosen to inhabit the writing of that era with the sensitivity, perceptiveness and insight that Alec Nevala-Lee exhibits in his new book, Astounding: John W. Campbell, Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, L. Ron Hubbard, and the Golden Age of Science Fiction ... This scrupulous account of the lives and careers and spreading waves of influence of the four named participants is simultaneously broad and laser-focused, nostalgic and forward-looking. It delivers both sweeping judgments and anecdotal particularity which fuel each other in a synergistic cycle ... And Nevala-Lee’s prose is exemplary, reading like the classic fiction it details: witty, vivid, taut, suspenseful, empathetic. And when Nevala-Lee does critically synopsize and dissect a piece of fiction, he inhabits it wholeheartedly and insightfully, making the reader–who might not have encountered a certain tale–completely understand the nature of the story and why the piece was important.
Many classic-era science-fiction biographies and memoirs, such as Isaac Asimov’s three-volume memoir and William H. Patterson Jr.’s two-volume life of Robert Heinlein, make generous mention of the pioneering editor and publisher John W. Campbell, whose Astounding Science Fiction was the flagship magazine of the genre for decades ... Nevala-Lee's warts-and-all look is a welcome contribution to the study of popular literature.
The golden age of science fiction, spanning the years 1939 to 1950, gets an authoritative examination in this fascinating appraisal of its key players. The primary focus is John W. Campbell, editor of Astounding Science Fiction magazine, and the three very different writers who served him best: Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, and L. Ron Hubbard. The author credits Campbell with turning science fiction 'from a literature of escapism into a machine for generating analogies' and using his magazine as 'a laboratory in which his writers could work out scenarios for the future.' ... This book is a major work of popular culture scholarship that science fiction fans will devour.