Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Review: Deadly City

Deadly City by Paul W Fairman AKA Ivar Jorgenson  (1953)

A man awakens two days after a brutal mugging only to discover that the whole of Chicago is devoid of human life.  Finding three other survivors, they learn that the city has been evacuated against the advance of alien invasion force.

This short story formed the basis of the science fiction film Target Earth and the plot is nearly identical.  If anything, the screenplay by Arch Obler managed to smooth out some of the faults.  This is one of those "frank" and "adult" stories that sci writers would try on during the '50s and like most of them, it's a bit embarrassing with its hooker, hairy ape, timid spinster and seedy hero.  Not surprisingly, there's lots of frank, adult drinking; frank, adult talk; frank, adult brawling and frank, adult shouting of "sex maniac" for good measure.  In other words, it tries too hard at a plot that the premise just can't support.

The greater problem is that Fairman fails on a fundamental level.  A short story is essentially a gag.  There has to be a twist or a revelation or a pay off that makes the story work.  Here, the pay off is a damp squib that is nothing more than a worn out deus ex machina that even H G Wells used out of desperation.

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