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With the Night Mail: A Story of 2000 A.D.

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"SHE: Do you like Kipling? HE: I don't know, I've never Kippled!" If you've never read Rudyard Kipling's science fiction, then you've never Kippled.

Having achieved international fame with The Jungle Book, Captains Courageous, Kim, and his Just So Stories, in 1905 Kipling serialized a thrilling science fiction novella, With the Night Mail: A Story of 2000 A.D, in which the reader learns — while following the exploits of an intercontinental mail dirigible battling foul weather — about a planet-wide Aerial Board of Control, which enforces a rigid system of command and control not only in the skies (which are increasingly crowded with every manner of zeppelin) but in world affairs too.

Kipling got so excited by his own utopian vision that when the story first appeared in McClure's Magazine, it was accompanied by phony advertisements for dirigible and aeronautical products that he'd written, plus other ersatz magazine clippings. In one of these latter, we read that the Aerial Board of Control had effectively outlawed war in 1967 — by "reserving to every nation the right of waging war so long as it does not interfere with traffic and all that that implies."

This turns out to imply a great deal! In Kipling's 1912 followup story, "As Easy As A.B.C.," which is set 65 years after With the Night Mail, we learn just how complete the Aerial Board's control is over the social and economic affairs of every nation. When a mob of disgruntled "Serviles" in the District of Northern Illinois demands the return of democracy, the A.B.C. sends a team of troubleshooters (from England, Russia, Japan, and Italy) and a fleet of 200 zeppelins to "take such steps as might be necessary for the resumption of traffic and all that that implies." Democracy, it seems, is an impediment to the smooth flow of international commerce — so it was abolished during the 20th century, along with newspapers.

What happens when the A.B.C. troubleshooters confront the democrats? Trouble!

58 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1909

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About the author

Rudyard Kipling

3,686 books2,964 followers
Joseph Rudyard Kipling was a journalist, short-story writer, poet, and novelist.

Kipling's works of fiction include The Jungle Book (1894), Kim (1901), and many short stories, including The Man Who Would Be King (1888). His poems include Mandalay (1890), Gunga Din (1890), The Gods of the Copybook Headings (1919), The White Man's Burden (1899), and If— (1910). He is regarded as a major innovator in the art of the short story; his children's books are classics of children's literature; and one critic described his work as exhibiting "a versatile and luminous narrative gift".

Kipling was one of the most popular writers in the United Kingdom, in both prose and verse, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Henry James said: "Kipling strikes me personally as the most complete man of genius (as distinct from fine intelligence) that I have ever known." In 1907, at the age of 41, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, making him the first English-language writer to receive the prize, and its youngest recipient to date. He was also sounded out for the British Poet Laureateship and on several occasions for a knighthood, both of which he declined.

Awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1907 "in consideration of the power of observation, originality of imagination, virility of ideas and remarkable talent for narration which characterize the creations of this world-famous author."

Kipling kept writing until the early 1930s, but at a slower pace and with much less success than before. On the night of 12 January 1936, Kipling suffered a haemorrhage in his small intestine. He underwent surgery, but died less than a week later on 18 January 1936 at the age of 70 of a perforated duodenal ulcer. Kipling's death had in fact previously been incorrectly announced in a magazine, to which he wrote, "I've just read that I am dead. Don't forget to delete me from your list of subscribers."

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 44 reviews
Profile Image for Paul Bryant.
2,162 reviews9,031 followers
November 17, 2021
Rudyard Kipling wrote many great poems about the past but here he sits at his desk in 1905 and figures what life is going to be like in the year 2000. And the future is

Dirigibles! Air ships!

Obviously not aeroplanes – the Wright brothers’ eccentric experiment had only taken place two years before, and anyone could see that was not going to lead to anything.

Mr Kipling’s novelette is really a magazine article about "My Exciting Trip with the Night Mail", including a big storm and the rescuing of another air ship in distress. So it’s not a story, as such. No, it’s a pure exercise in

TECHNOPORN

Steely-eyed captains stare certain death in the face but the night mail must get through.

Give her full helm and she returns on her track like a whip-lash.

they will explain. Something in another dirigible offends Captain Hodgson and he raps out

Serves ‘em right for putting German compos in their thrust-blocks.

Meanwhile our goggle-eyed narrator almost drools as he tells us that

The inner skin shuts off fifty feet of the bow and as much of the stern, but the bow-bulkhead is recessed for the lift-shunting apparatus as the stern is pierced for the shaft-tunnels. … One looks down over the coamings three hundred feet to the despatching-caisson whence voices boom upwards.

Kipling is not entirely straight-faced about all this machinery worship, he adds some spoofy adverts and letters to the editor at the end. But still, it’s clear he thought the future was 1000 foot long gleaming silver eggs in the sky. Lots and lots of them.

After reading this, I will not be putting German compos in my thrust-blocks any time soon. You would have to be a complete fool.

Profile Image for Warren Fournier.
572 reviews52 followers
August 13, 2022
This is a seminal and influential work of Radium-Age science fiction by an unlikely author--Rudyard Kipling, perhaps best known as the man behind "The Man Who Would Be King" and "The Jungle Book."

Those familiar with Wellsian visions of world governments connected via airways crowded with dirigibles and zeppelins, or the stunning iconic images of Lang's "Metropolis," will appreciate this early take of what "the future" would be like. The original timeframe in which this story was to be set was supposed to be about now. Kipling later settled on having it take place at the turn of the millennium. I actually remember seeing blimps in the sky much more frequently in the 70s and 80s than today, which is a real shame, because I love the portly behemoths of the sky. But when I'm in Chicago and look up at some of the art-deco skyscrapers to see their mooring masts still extending their metaphorical middle fingers to the heavens, I'm reminded of just how fleeting the best laid plans for the future of humanity can be.

Though first published in 1905, the 1909 edition featured some beautiful illustrations by Frank Leyendecker and clever marketing to immerse the early science fiction nerd in a whole other world, complete with fictional advertisements, book reviews, and notices from the future, reminiscent of the popular "Fallout" franchise. Take this example:

"ADVERTISING SECTION — SAFETY WEAR FOR AERONAUTS. High Level Flickers: Pure para kit with cellulose seat and shoulder-pads, weighted to balance. Unequalled for all drop-work. Our trebly resilient heavy kit is the ne plus ultra of comfort and safety. Gas-buoyed, waterproof, hail-proof, non-conducting Flickers with pipe and nozzle fitting all types of generator. Graduated tap on left hip.”

Modern readers really will get a solid taste of almost everything that we take for granted today in fantasy, from steam punk to "hard" sci-fi. For you D&D fans, the book and its sequel, "Easy as A.B.C.," spawned a role playing game called "Forgotten Futures" with the first source book entitled "The A.B.C. Files" which I would love to try.

But as important as this work is in geekdom, does it measure up today?

Well, as a story, I can't say it is the most exciting. Most of it is as dry as the stratosphere, but you techies and speculative fiction historians will enjoy the detailed descriptions of the inner workings of a radium-powered intercontinental aerial mail ship, and marvel at the first use of "force fields" and streaming data in literature. The dirigible is rocked by a freak storm, which comprises much of the action. We learn that this world is under the benevolent dictatorship of the Aerial Board of Control, or A.B.C., which strives to keep things friendly for global trade. Apart from this exercise of innovative ideas, the book lacks character development, plot, or ingenious prose. It does, however, give you a true sense of being a passenger traveling the skies of this alternate 21st Century, and it provides a solid basis for a rich literary universe which sadly has not been revisited except for in Kipling's own sequel which I will review separately.

In conclusion, I rate this three balloons for entertainment value, but a full five for its cultural importance in science fiction history. The 1909 edition is a beautiful work of art, and good copies are still available out there for a reasonable price. If you just want to check out the story itself, you can find it in the massive anthology of "Rudyard Kipling's Tales of Horror and Fantasy" compiled by Stephen Jones or for free in audio and online formats everywhere, since it is in the public domain.
Profile Image for Debbie Zapata.
1,731 reviews26 followers
March 14, 2015
I never thought of Rudyard Kipling writing pulp science fiction but here is the proof of at least one venture into such territory. Written in 1905, this story was great fun to read and I hope someday to find the sequel that was written in 1912 and takes place 60 years or so after the action in Night Mail, which was set in the year 2000.

I was tickled by many of the details in this story, which follows a dirigible mail ship across the Atlantic. There is a lot...A LOT...of air traffic, all controlled by the 'Aërial Board of Control', which pretty much is responsible for running the entire planet. I loved the idea of these ultra-modern mail 'plane' dirigibles carrying crews of clerks sorting bags of what we call Snail Mail during the journey. There are light beams that function just like old-time lighthouses to direct traffic, but the beams point straight up into the air. My favorite is the strongest, highest-reaching one, with its green light visible for miles...it is known as The Leek.

In less than 60 pages of actual story, Kipling created the base for what could have been a fascinating series of tales, and he made this particular one even more fun by writing 'bulletins' from the A. B. C. at the end, as well as 'answers' to correspondents who had written to the A.B.C. to complain about various things encountered in their journeys. One example is this reply to 'Beginner': On still days the air above a large inhabited city being slightly warmer—i. e., thinner—than the atmosphere of the surrounding country, a plane drops a little on entering the rarefied area, precisely as a ship sinks a little in fresh water. Hence the phenomena of "jolt" and your "inexplicable collisions" with factory chimneys. In air, as on earth, it is safest to fly high.

Kipling even includes a review of a book written about one of the pioneers of this fantasy world's exploring era. Now, I knew the book was not real, but by the end of the review, I wanted very much to read that book! Not to mention the rest of the review, which ended with those dreaded words "To Be Continued".

The whole time I was reading this piece, I kept wondering why Kipling never went ahead and did more with his idea. It seemed to me that he had mightily enjoyed playing with this little creation. Then in the 'ads' I saw this:

Remember!

¶ It is now nearly a century since the Plane was to supersede the Dirigible for all
purposes.

¶ TO-DAY none of the Planet's freight is carried en plane.

¶ Less than two per cent. of the Planet's passengers are carried en plane.

We design, equip and
guarantee Dirigibles for
all purposes.

Standard Dig Construction Company

MILLWALL and BUENOS AYRES


Sometimes Kipling interchanges the word ship, plane, and dirigible, but here it is obvious that all of the 'planes' in the story itself are dirigibles. And though maybe that seemed to be the way things would go in 1905; as we all know, 'real' planes soon took over the skies. Perhaps that and the lead up to World War I diverted Kipling's attention from exploring any further his newly created world. If I can ever find the sequel "As Easy As A. B. C." maybe I will have my curiosity satisfied. I just hope he includes the second part of that book review!
Profile Image for Trike.
1,396 reviews148 followers
September 13, 2018
You can read this novella online at Project Gutenberg: http://www.gutenberg.org/files/29135/...

The story is thinner than air, but it’s really about the worldbuilding, which is amazing. This tale features large dirigibles moving passengers and freight across the planet, the use of radios, and the slagging off of aeroplanes. Bear in mind that this was published in 1905, before zeppelins existed, before successful demonstrations of radio, and just after the Wright brothers demonstrated their airplane. The Wrights were widely disbelieved and dismissed, despite numerous flights before witnesses from the government and press, not to mention photos. Kipling is clearly in the “airplanes are preposterous deathtraps” camp.

This is the equivalent of A Logic Named Joe by Murray Leinster from 1946, where Leinster accurately portrayed the modern internet before TV was a thing. Sure, many of the terms aren’t the same as what we ultimately settled on, but the concepts are all there.

The second half of this is comprised of an imagined technical journal/magazine based on airship travel. Kipling has written an aerial version of the Shipping News, a racing report, book reviews and book catalogs, and even made-up ads for parts and jobs. Kipling went deep on this. It’s kind of a shame he didn’t write a more compelling story to go along with it, instead focusing on the nuts and bolts of how mail delivery by airship works.

Kipling did waaay overestimate how fast dirigibles would be able to travel, but since they didn’t exist in their giant form yet, I’m cutting him some slack. Count von Zeppelin only built his first (small) rigid airship in 1900. I mean, come on. That’s badass.

Of course, setting this 95 years in the future in the far-distant year of 2000 means he missed some innovations, so nowadays it actually feels exactly like steampunk, which is kind of cool in and of itself.
Profile Image for Vylūnė.
110 reviews41 followers
August 16, 2018
"As Easy as A.B.C." is a lovely dystopia and i would gladly rate it with 5 stars. However, "With the Night Mail" has excellent world building but it's horribly dull in any other aspect.
Profile Image for Sharon .
377 reviews15 followers
October 6, 2012
An interesting read. The faux science is detailed. In many respects typical Kipling but for me a rather superficial story in the end. I would have liked to see the ideas and the setting further explored in a more lengthy speculative work but a worthwhile read for me nevertheless. Good world building, with an emphasis on creating convincing science but character is superficial. A curiosity piece.
Profile Image for John Stammers.
36 reviews10 followers
May 26, 2016
This review among other book reviews cane be found on my blog alongside other kinds of posts: http://wordsaremymedicine.blogspot.co...

Keen to get a head start on next year's reading list for a module titled Understanding and Writing Science Fiction, I decided to borrow a copy of this book from the campus library. Rudyard Kipling is better known as the author of The Jungle Book, a book I have considered one day reading. However, if The Jungle Book reads anything like this then I probably won't bother. Let's just say, if this book wasn't required reading for next year, I wouldn't have stuck with it for as long as I did.

In order to explain the plot, I had to look it up online because I was so bored whilst reading that I must have missed any plot within either of the two short stories. Both With the Night Mail and As Easy as A.B.C. centre around the Aërial Board of Control (A.B.C.), which is responsible for controlling all the air traffic across the world in the 21st Century. The A.B.C. has essentially established itself as a world government due to its power to limit national states, all of which I found out through Wikipedia and not from reading the story. I'd recommend finding a better overview of the plot somewhere else online, preferably from someone who read this story and actually gave a shit about what was going on.

In case you couldn't tell, I really didn't like this book. In fact, I would go as far as to say that I hated it. I think the issue is that I love to read about characters and stories about characters. I enjoy dialogue, which is perhaps why I've started to enjoy watching, reading, and writing theatre plays. With the Night Mail was just description of the airship and its journey. I don't expect action, action, action all the time, and I can forgive dull moments if there's a payoff, but no plot or character emerged throughout reading. I got to the end of the short story and couldn't tell you a single thing that happened. I was so bored reading it that I could not stop my mind from wandering.

There are news clippings, a review, and notes that all tie into the story that appear at the end. Some have praised these, claiming they enrich the story and give further insight to the world Kipling created. I wanted to hand the book back to the library too much by that point to even bother sparing those pages a glance.

As Easy as A.B.C. looked to be more promising than the former story. There were characters and dialogue and it didn't seem so technical. Unfortunately, I was so done with the book by that point that I couldn't work up any enthusiasm to give the second story a chance. I didn't finish it in the end, what's the point of putting myself through a book I'm not enjoying? Especially if I'm not going to remember a single thing about it.

Saying that, sci-fi readers who enjoy novels written by authors who like to be meticulous with their details may love this book. Some may be dazzled by how descriptive the narrative is and enjoy learning the ins and outs of the A.B.C. and Kipling's airships. I think whether or not you'd enjoy this book depends on what you enjoy reading. Ask yourself what it is you expect to get from a novel. If it's not what I've described then I'd suggest you give it a miss.

The only positive I've taken away from this experience is that I've been able to write an angry review for once. Despite being the least enjoyable book I've read in a long while, this has been the most fun review I've ever written. Maybe I should read Twilight or Fifty Shades of Grey so I can enjoy another book rant.

RATING: 1/5
Profile Image for Jim.
83 reviews1 follower
April 24, 2018
This story is a quick read, but not a particularly engaging one-- aside from the curious fact that it's a sci-fi story written by Rudyard Kipling, who is not normally associated with the genre.

The story itself is an account of a fairly routine zeppelin-mail delivery (London to Montreal) that happens to be set in the year 2000. The characters are forgetttable, and a lot of the story involves technobabble about the "Fleury ray" that makes dirigible travel so effective. What's really interesting is the vision of a future world (the story was penned in 1905) wherein dirigibles have become the main form of transportation, and great infrastructure and regulations have been set up around them. It's also implied that the "Aerial Board of Control" which manages all this has taken on something of the function of a world government-- or something close to it. (War is apparently obselete as a result of its benign influence as well.)

I would probably give this only 1 star, or maybe 2 on its own. However, I'm elevating it to 3 because of the delightful "addenda" at the end of the story that purport to be extracts from a professional airmens' journal from the time, with warnings of weather reports, changes to"cloudbreaker" beacons, airship wrecks, book reviews, advertisements, want ads, and the like. These addenda are a playful and clever touch that redeem what is itself a rather uninteresting story on its own.
Profile Image for Alex Sarll.
5,607 reviews223 followers
Read
May 25, 2015
Zeppelins have become one of the lazy signifiers of steampunk, strewn like goggles and cogs across stories which merit no further attention. And it's a shame, because they're wonderful things. Kipling wrote these two stories back when airships were still a possible future, rather than a lost alternate present, and it makes all the difference; he's obviously as fascinated by the nuts and bolts of the coming technology as by the new world it enables. A world in which the Aerial Board of Control ensures safety of traffic "and all that that implies" - making them de facto rulers of the Earth. As a benign if slightly bloodless despotic bureaucracy, they prefigure Cordwainer Smith's Instrumentality; as an alternative to the lunacies of democracy, they still seem very appealing. And, as I may have mentioned, they have airships.

I already have both these stories in bigger Kipling collections, but this edition was worth picking up cheap anyway because it also features typically perspicacious essays by Matthew de Abaitua and Bruce Sterling, which shed critical and biographical light on the tales.
Profile Image for Duncan.
109 reviews
January 15, 2015
Unfathomable. Only for die hard Steampunk -ers
This short story seemed to be about the rescue of a dirigible that was crashing, followed by a whole load of spoof adverts and newspaper reports to give the flavour of authenticity. However I found it almost impossible to follow. Set in the far future 2000AD this is Steampunk of the highest order. Written in 1905 by Rudyard Kipling about global travel by airship I think this is a classic that needs sought out by all diehard steampunk fans and possibly re-written. Is it just me that doesn't get Steampunk? Ok it's a really rich visual style and works well on screen, but I don't get it in novels. Going into that much intricate detail of valves gauges brass nozzles parachute harnesses and the like isn't what I look for in a novel. Ah well, takes all sorts.
Profile Image for Rebecca Ann.
2,691 reviews
January 24, 2015
I'm kind of scared to read the Jungle Book, having despised this short story so much. The writing style is very dry, packed full of technical details about the airships with nary a plot or character of depth to be seen. I only read this story to help someone with an essay and if I could go back and retrieve that wasted time I would.
Profile Image for Mack .
1,452 reviews52 followers
November 16, 2017
Remarkable writing. Thorough, fully created alternative world. Done as if it were all real and done well. No plot to speak of nor characters.
Profile Image for Lance Schonberg.
Author 27 books25 followers
December 29, 2015
More strictly a novelette, With the Night Mail comes in at only 13,000 words and 60-ish pages. I started out with a download from the Gutenberg project (it’s well into the public domain) but found a beautiful scan of an illustrated version on Forgotten Futures linked from Wikipedia which also includes “As Easy as A.B.C.”, a shorter tale set in the same universe. Together, the two make up the only Science Fiction Kipling published. The online version of the Gutenberg text includes the illustrations, too, but I picked the wrong download originally.

Seemed for a while that it was just going to be a story touring the modern airship of the year 2000. This part of With the Night Mail was intellectually interesting but I was waiting for an actual story to start. This part does establish the dirigible/air ship as the preferred method of transportation and freight in the world. This is emphasized throughout the story with a variety of other points. Kipling knew about planes, or at least the idea of them, but in the world of the A.B.C., they never took off. Air ships and submersibles take care of everything.

The narrator is more of an observer, reporting on the various deeds and heroics of the senior and junior captains of “Postal Packet 162”. During the story, we learn the layout and functioning of 162, the habits of her captains, and details of what makes the world work. We watch them deal with normal daily events on a postal packet as well as both the rescue of a crew from a doomed private dirigible and a truly nasty storm that could have ended everything for the crew of the 162.

The writing and the world aesthetic fits right in with modern steampunk, and it’s better than most of what I’ve read in that subgenre. But it’s important to remember that it isn’t steampunk, or wasn’t at the time, but actual SF, and it does make predictions beyond the specific airship technology, although those particular predictions mark it as more alternate history now. But Kipling also suggested in the story that war would be a thing of the past by the year 2000, scientific advancements would improve our lives, and those lives would be extended to thirty years or more beyond the average of his time. While the latter two have proven basically correct, if not quite in the same ways Kipling foresaw, the first still seems like a distant dream.

And the science and engineering of what made the airship the method of choice, if made up, is a plausible extension of what Kipling might have been expected to know as a well educated man in 1905.

There was a moment, just after a rescue, where it looked like Kipling might be making a prediction on the future of religion, how “men of the old days” had been taught “that after death he would very possibly go for ever to unspeakable torment”. But another moment later in the in the story puts a different spin on things. The 162 passes a hospital ship signing to the glory of god in the morning, and the crew of the postal ship joins in, so it’s only hell that’s been forgotten as a serious thing and not religion as a whole. I wish I had some idea of Kipling’s religious views because the idea is an interesting one and I think is a throwback to an earlier version of Christianity.

The story itself is only two thirds of the pages, though it does make up most of the text. The remaining pages consist of what I’d call world-building notes: log entries, dispatches from the ABC, and notes that tell bits of the story of the world the Aerial Board of Control more or less governs. Somehow, it’s become the glue that holds the world together by the year 2000, probably a fair distance in time before, with only Crete as, until recently, a hold out.

All of this comes under the heading of “Aerial Board of Control Bulletin”, which I think we’re to gather is a weekly update. It’s interesting world building, but not strictly necessary to the story itself. It’s fun, though, complete with letters to the editor, a review of an imaginary biography, want ads, and regular ads.

Overall rating: 3.5 stars. This was a fun read and I wish Kipling had done more in the universe than just a single additional short. But he would have quickly seen the way things were going between dirigibles and airplanes. Alternate histories are one thing, but I’m not sure how Kipling might have looked at alternate presents. Or maybe I am, since he wrote only one more tale in this setting.
Profile Image for Wetdryvac.
Author 190 books
April 30, 2021
I love Kipling's writing style, but am pretty neutral overall on this work. Hits a lot of points I otherwise very much enjoy, but oddly it was the illustrations I liked the most.
Profile Image for Peter Dunn.
473 reviews21 followers
November 14, 2013
I had heard of these two Kipling science fiction stories, and had always meant to seek them out and read them but in the end they pushed themselves in front of me. I found myself facing a shelf of HiLo books “Radium Age Science Fiction Series” short books with simple but beautiful covers, and the number two in the series was that very combination I had intended to read of “With the Night Mail” and "As Easy as A.B.C."

NB apologies but if you are reading this first on Facebook then Goodreads's useless interface with Facebook will probably not display the beautiful purple cover of this edition but some other random selection. it May do the same on teh Goodreads page.

The presentation of the stories is excellent and it includes Kipling’s original fake future dirigible industry magazine adverts, and even the lyrics of a song that appears in “As Easy as A.B.C."

As to the stories themselves – well yes the characters are pretty one dimensional, yes not a great deal happens in the first story, and yes much of what happens in the second defies normal human motivation. However for such an early SF tale Kipling does still generate a sense of wonder, excites our interest in a plausible grand scale technology, and he has great delight in poking fun at the flaws in his future German tech compared to good old British reliable engineering (good thing he never lived to see how the two compared in the last quarter of the last century).

However what is most intriguing to me about these tales is how he genuinely seems to be setting out to compose a utopia but as he writes it we can see, and feel, it slipping away into unintended dystopia with democracy demonised, problem people put in a freak show, and perhaps worst of all for the journalist Kipling, the cessation of news and newspapers…

Profile Image for Perry Whitford.
1,956 reviews56 followers
September 12, 2016
Not so very long ago I was surprised to discover that Mark Twain wrote a spoof Sherlock Holmes story called The Double-barrelled Detective Story. Lo and behold, now I find out that Rudyard Kipling wrote a sci-fi tale.

Whatever next? Did Jane Austen write a swashbuckling adventure yarn?

I no doubt should have known these things a long time ago, but there you go. Twain's quirky little diversion was well worth discovering. How about Kipling's unlikely foray?

According to Kipling, in the year 2000 we all travel the globe in dirigibles because planes never really, pardon the pun, took off. A journalist takes a journey on the London to Quebec 'Postal Packet 162' and just about lives to tell the tale after being caught up in an electrical storm.

The dirigibles can climb up to 10,000 feet due to some incomprehensible contraption called the Fleury Ray, although I can't think why anyone would want to because the air is so cold you have to wear a silly inflatable suit. Your average pilot fly's like a jerk anyway so if the storms won't get you another dirigible will.

All of that is unlikely enough, but his speculations soon take more of a nosedive. In the Correspondence section near the end (the story is padded out with some extra features including letters and advertisements to give the whole thing the appearance of a magazine) Kipling informs us that 'War, as a paying concern, ceased in 1967.'

Apparently everybody gets on after that without the need of governments, deferring to the Aerial Board of Control ('A.B.C.' for short) in all matters. They regulate the airways as their main task and run the world on the side.

I can't imagine With the Night Mail caused H.G. Wells to lose any sleep.
Profile Image for Ladiibbug.
1,547 reviews61 followers
November 28, 2016
Aerial Board of Control, Book 1 - Science Fiction

First published in 1905, this Rudyard Kipling short story is set in the year 2000.
Dirgibles and zepplins of all sorts fill the skies with busy air traffic, overseen by the Aeriable Board of Control (A.B.C.).

We follow an international mail dirigible crossing the Atlantic, bound for Quebec, when bad weather strikes. I enjoyed this story very much - thanks to Good Reads' Debbie Zapata for her great review here: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...

Kipling followed up this novella, originally serialized in The London Magazine, March and April 1912. The two part serialization is titled "As Easy As A.B.C., A Tale of 2150 A.D." and can be read free online here: http://www.forgottenfutures.com/game/...

With The Night Mail: A Story of 2000 A.D. can be read free at Gutenberg.org. It is listed on Listopia, in a new-to-me category:

Radium Age Sci-Fi: 100 Best https://www.goodreads.com/list/show/1...

"Science fiction novels published after the genre’s 1864–1903 Scientific Romance era, but before its (1934–63) so-called Golden Age. The 1904–33 era is one in which sf fans and historians have never been particularly interested."

http://hilobrow.com/radium-age-100/
Profile Image for Rusty Thelin.
18 reviews
September 25, 2014
I didn't enjoy this book nearly as much as Bruce Sterling did. I agree with him that Kipling is an amazing writer; as Sterling states, "it's anything but dry and boring exposition about how a future aircraft works." I think where I got lost (or lost interest) was in the general lack of plot coupled with the sort of meandering prose and dearth of information about the world. Yes, I get that it's a sort of totalitarian future with no so-called politics; I just didn't care. What I did enjoy immensely were the fake magazine ads, which could have been out of any steampunk magazine (and which should be examined closely by anyone with a keen interest in that genre). I do really like this "radium-age" series of books, and applaud the fine folks at HiLo Books. Please keep putting them out!
Profile Image for Michael Bafford.
533 reviews11 followers
January 1, 2017
I always considered Kipling a good story teller. But this was so clogged with descriptions I couldn't understand that the story fell apart. And it wasn't really a story to begin with; a jorney with a dirigible across the Atlantic. Even though the trip was by night and through a storm it failed to grip.

Also there's the fact that Kipling totally missed the mark as SF visionary. The British Empire is apparently intact, good honest bluff English civil servants have a firm hand on the throttle. And the throttle is on an airship. War has been abandoned as unprofitable and there's not a word about the colonies, the EU, Brexit, or airplanes...
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Norman Cook.
1,354 reviews13 followers
March 10, 2014
Kipling's future world is dominated by commerce based on dirigible transportation, regulated by the Aerial Board of Control. The technology extrapolation makes sense for when the story was written, but Kipling completely misses the mark in characterization or other facets of good storytelling. The second half is nothing more than faux advertisements, the first few of which were somewhat interesting, but there were too many. A few would have worked better as sidebars included within the story itself.
Profile Image for Antares.
6 reviews1 follower
May 29, 2011
Interesting. Kipling imagined a world in which commerce was dominated by airships. A supra-national agency, the Aerial Board of Control, regulated air commerce and penalized nations for interference with commerce.

In this world, airplanes are toys of the wealthy.

The problem Kipling had was that his hero is the technology. He shows us the technology, not how the men lived and struggled with the technology. For that reason, it is inferior science fiction.
Profile Image for Andrew Ives.
Author 7 books9 followers
August 3, 2011
Kipling isn't renowned for his sci-fi and this goes some way towards explaining why. It's well-written, but still reads like some kind of Jane's aeroplane manual for futuristic planes that never existed or aviation magazine. Add to this some dodgy predictions about the future 2000 AD (now known to be way off the mark - including the very first line about the GPO!) and you end up with something that is very humdrum indeed. I got so bored, I gave up after 3/4 of it, despite forcing myself on.
Profile Image for Architeacher.
92 reviews57 followers
September 26, 2020
It's a short book; you can read it in one evening. But I wish I'd known more about sailing terminology, since so much of it has been applied to Kipling's futuristic adaptation of the dirigible. What makes the book especially fascinating is the "extra" matter, supposedly from the magazine of the future, with all sorts of additional terminology, history, and even advertisements. I kept seeing a very short film made from the book. Wonder what the Wachowski kids are up to these days.
13 reviews4 followers
July 8, 2020
Early alt history

I never knew till now that Kipling write twialt history novels Set at the end of the twentieth century in a world where mass transport uses airships. The writing is excellent if old fashioned . But not much happens apart from passage through a storm. Excellent description but no plot as such.
Profile Image for Al Lock.
680 reviews21 followers
May 24, 2017
A look into the future from more than a century ago. Kipling got just about everything wrong, mostly by underestimating the advances and the resulting social change. Still, a very interesting set of ideas.
Profile Image for Jen.
160 reviews34 followers
February 7, 2017
No real plot, but wonderfully imaginative 3.5*
Profile Image for Emily.
495 reviews
July 14, 2019
Very technical, the adverts in particular were entertaining. Hints at the world, but little detail - apparently there's a sequel with more world building.
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