Keeping with my resolution to do more sci-fi, I've decided to take a look at the classic film, The Day the Earth Stood Still. However, I'm starting at the beginning with the original short story:
Farewell to the Master (1940)
By: Harry Bates
Out story opens on photographer Cliff Sutherland snapping shots of the newly opened alien species museum in Washington. He relates how the now dead Klaatu and his robot Gnut landed three months ago. Klaatu is dead and Gnut hasn't moved since then. Cliff notices that Gnut has moved by comparing photos from before and after. He sneaks into a lab to try and discover if the robot has been moving at night.
This story is straight from the golden age of science fiction and reads exactly like that. We have a clever youthful hero who stumbles upon a mystery. He solves it, but cannot reveal his discovery until the end. This story fares better than some with likeable, if bland, characters and an interesting mystery. There are some things that don't make as much sense as they should and fall into the trap of just excusing it as 'alien.'
Cliff Sutherland is an intrepid "photo reporter" who was among the first to see the visitors. He soon gets wrapped up in discovering Klaatu's purpose on earth. As with most protagonists of this era of sci-fi he has little personality outside his devotion to the mystery which is kind of a shame.
Visitors from the Unknown
Gnut is a massive humanoid robot constructed from an unknown green metal. His actions during the night are the cause of great mystery and speculation. I really think that the author could have used some more introspection on Gnut's actions because many of them make no sense.
Klaatu is a traveler from time and space. He was killed by an insane man before he could reveal his purpose in visiting humanity. Klaatu plays a much more minor role than in either of the films.
This story is meant to take place in a future of ray guns and rocket ships. As such, it doesn't really vibe too well with the actual future in which we now live. It's actually kind of funny reading it now.
In the End
The twist ending is not as surprising nor meaningful as the story tries to build it to be. It is interesting in a kind of average Twilight Zone episode kind of way.
This story has some intriguing bits, but its age and reliance on a twist ending make it weaker than it could have been. It did go on to spawn a great move, so I suppose it has that going for it. Check this out if you enjoy decent golden age science fiction.
Oh, and it's free! See you tomorrow for the 1951 classic The Day the Earth Stood Still.