The Big Jump, by Leigh Brackett
First published: 1967
New star-drive engines promise to open up the galaxy to human-kind. But the first ship to use the engines disappears and a sole survivor returns…alone and dying of some strange type of radiation.
No one can figure out what has happened to the ship or the crew. Nor does anyone know what happens to a ship travelling using star-drive technology.
Does some unknown horror await us out there? The only way to find out is to go out again. And Arch Comyn is determined to be the one to solve the mystery. But is he, and the rest of mankind, ready for whatever awaits us beyond the Big Jump? (Amazon)
Leigh Brackett’s The Big Jump was Phoenix Pick‘s free ebook for March 2012 (you can still pick it up by using the coupon code 9991393, which is valid until March 31), and after reading the synopsis and seeing how short it was (about 130 pages for the paperback edition, really more of a novella than a novel), I decided to give this old-school sci-fi story a try so I downloaded it.
At first I thought I was really going to enjoy this book. The Big Jump took off with an interesting first part, featuring a pioneering space voyage to a mysterious planet, a single surviving crew member that brought back news of the abundance of foreign chemical elements that could make the people who possessed them very, very rich (Unobtainium, basically), as well as dire warnings about something dangerous enough to make gathering said chemical elements impossible. With an interesting protagonist and a solid pace, The Big Jump had all the makings of a memorable book.
Unfortunately, by the second half of the book, Brackett gets lost in her own prose, losing sight of the actual story. While her writing has a certain poetic quality to it that might appeal to some readers, I felt that the entire second half The Big Jump forgot that it was supposed to be a story and turned into a surreal account of Arch Comyn’s almost religious and epiphanic experience on the second expedition to Bernard’s Star, which was, quite frankly, boring.
While The Big Jump (3/5) doesn’t show its age and has a certain timelessness to it that I appreciated, it’s ultimately not a very good book, mainly because the story turns boring by the second half, bringing this classic to an unsatisfying conclusion.