Who Goes There?

John W. Campbell, Jr.
Who Goes There? Cover

Trailblazing and essential reading


Forget the less than impressive two movie adaptations of this story, even though John Carpenter's version The Thing is more faithful to the original tale. This is essential reading by the architect of modern genre sf. True to Campbell's insistance that genre writers should work hard at their craft in order to raise the bar for literary quality, display meticulous scientific accuracy and maintain disciplined prediction, we find all these qualities in this psychological thriller.

Scientists at an Antarctic research station discover a magnetic force on their instruments. Investigating this unexpected phenomena they find something encased deep in the polar ice - an immense object, burried for the best part of 20 miilion years. They conclude that its occupant, a dwarfish being with three red eyes and blue vermiform hair, must have crawled out of the machine before freezing to death. After taking the extraterrestrial being to their camp, they soon discover that their unique specimen is no longer inert but that it poses a greater threat to the plant than they could ever have imagined. Every single cell is an independant organism and it can assimilate and mimic any life-form perfectly. No-one can be trusted as anyone could now be a thing, heinously covert as all its various "versions" hide among the members of the scientific station. One is very aware of the ominous, lurking alien presence, the seemingly helplessness, near anxiety and paranoia the characters experience in the claustrophobic and restrictive environment of the station.

Campbell's belief in man's intellect and his optimism and faith in mankind to previal against all odds, is magnificently portrayed, despite experiencing some frustration with the occassional awkward prose and a few characterisations that felt a little deflated. It takes all the main characters' inventiveness, resolve and desire to prove that man is master of the universe and to ensure that they survive the onslaught of the thing and stop its scions infecting the entire world.

Totally gripping, and extremely well structured.