Best 1952 Adventures (10)

By: Joshua Glenn
July 9, 2017

One in a series of 10 posts identifying Josh Glenn’s favorite 1952 adventure novels. Happy 65th anniversary!

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wolfe limbo

Bernard Wolfe’s Golden Age sci-fi adventure Limbo (1952; in the UK: Limbo ’90).

Limbo is: a tedious, aggravating work of genius; a post-apocalyptic antiwar treatise that is skeptical of pacifism; and a serious novel of ideas written by an inveterate punster. In 1990, after the cataclysm of WWIII has wiped out Paris, London, Rome, and other cities, the diary of a disillusioned brain surgeon is discovered. Dr. Martine’s irreverent, sarcastic notions — e.g., disarmament taken to a literal, amputational extreme — wind up providing an ideological basis for an absurdist worldwide movement. The disarmament movement has split into two factions: one remains helpless (paraded in baby carriages by their wives or mothers); the other replaces the missing limbs with powerful artificial ones. Martine’s peaceful Indian Ocean island home is invaded by cyborgs from the latter movement, who seek a rare metal — one thinks of “vibranium” — to power their limbs. He seeks to preserve the island… but he’s not a sympathetic character, as his lobotomization practice and misogynistic stream-of-consciousness fantasies demonstrate.

Fun fact: Limbo is considered one of the first novels about cybernetics, and it’s been described as a precursor of both the New Wave and Cyberpunk sci-fi movements. J.G. Ballard called Limbo “one of the books that encouraged me to write SF.”

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Let me know if I’ve missed any 1952 adventures that you particularly admire. Also, please check out these additional lists. The 200 Greatest Adventure Novels of All Time. THE OUGHTS (1904–13): 1905 | 1906 | 1907 | 1908 | 1910 | 1911 | 1912 | 1913. THE TEENS (1914–23): 1915 | 1916 | 1917 | 1918 | 1920 | 1921 | 1922 | 1923. THE TWENTIES (1924–33): 1925 | 1926 | 1927 | 1928 | 1930 | 1931 | 1932 | 1933. THE THIRTIES (1934–43): 1935 | 1936 | 1937 | 1938 | 1940 | 1941 | 1942 | 1943. THE FORTIES (1944–53): 1945 | 1946 | 1947 | 1948 | 1950 | 1951 | 1952 | 1953. THE FIFTIES (1954–63): 1955 | 1956 | 1957 | 1958 | 1960 | 1961 | 1962 | 1963. THE SIXTIES (1964–73): 1964 | 1965 | 1966 | 1967 | 1968 | 1970 | 1971 | 1972 | 1973. THE SEVENTIES (1974–83): 1975 | 1976 | 1977 | 1978 | 1980 | 1981 | 1982 | 1983. The goal, eventually, is to publish a Top 10 Adventures list for every year of the 20th century.

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Adventure, Lit Lists

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