MURRAY LEINSTER – The Monster from Earth’s End. Gold Medal s832, paperback original; 1st printing, January 1959.

MURRAY LEINSTER Monster at Earth's End

   In the mood for something to make my hair — such as it is — stand on end, and getting pretty discouraged in my quest when I had a few minutes off one day, popped into a used book store and picked up (for 50 cents) The Monster from Earth’s End by Murray Leinster.

   This is It: The genuine article, the real banana, a taut, suspenseful, exciting and genuinely creepy couple hours packed into 176 pages by a writer who knew how to do it.

   The story, which owes a bit to the movie The Thing, is set in a remote island off the coast of Chile used as a way-station for supplies and scientists bound to and from an Antarctic research station.

   Everyone on the island is eagerly tracking the progress of a north-bound plane bringing nine scientists and some botanical specimens from the South Pole for study when the pilot’s radio traffic suddenly becomes confused. Then panicky.

   After more than an hour of erratic flying, the plane lands with the wheels up and cargo bay open — thus blocking the airstrip — and the only one left on board is the pilot, who immediately blows his own brains out.

   Weird enough, but that’s just the start, as the staff on the island find themselves stalked at night by some unseen thing big enough to devour a man, pestered through the day by growing numbers of inch-long carnivorous crawling insects, and disbelieved by the brass on the mainland, who can’t get there anyway because the runway is blocked.

   Leinster develops the story nicely, cleverly increasing the isolation of the island workers while developing character and situations. And the characterization here is ably done indeed; I’d swear I have worked with some of these guys. The result is a book I can recommend heartily to anyone looking to tingle a spine or two.