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The Black Star Passes

(Arcot, Morey and Wade a.k.a. The Black Star #1)

3.24  ·  Rating details ·  244 ratings  ·  43 reviews
THREE AGAINST THE STARS! A sky pirate armed with superior weapons of his own invention...

First contact with an alien race dangerous enough to threaten the safety of two planets...

The arrival of an unseen dark sun whose attendant marauders aimed at the very end of civilization in this Solar System...

These were the three challenges that tested the skill and minds of the bril
Paperback, 176 pages
Published June 29th 2006 by Wildside Press (first published June 1st 1930)
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This was originally published in 1930, serialized in one of the pulps. Campbell went on to become one of the most influential editors of SF & this was the kind of story he liked. As he says in his introduction, it was written for the young minds of the day, those that wanted the stars & could release themselves from the mundane world. This certainly does that.

In his own words:
In 1930, the only audience for science-fiction was among those who were still young enough in spirit to be willing to ho
Aug 21, 2015 rated it liked it
Back in the late 1970s and early '80s, some of my favorite reading material, sci-fi-wise, was the wonderful series of 21 "Best of" anthologies put out by Ballantine. In an early indication of my future tastes, my favorites among those 21 collections were those by C.L. Moore, Henry Kuttner, Leigh Brackett, Edmond Hamilton and Philip K. Dick, although to be truthful, I thoroughly enjoyed them all...with one exception. "The Best of John W. Campbell," it seemed to me, was just OK; a bit crude, and j ...more
Chris Gager
Time for a bit of sci-fi after the subdued but serious craziness of "The Good Soldier." No sci-fi there, just adults with a lot of defects of character. Mr. Campbell was a sci-fi pioneer who gave up writing fiction to focus on publishing/editing early sci-fi periodicals. This slim, volume was first published in 1950 and consists of a few stories written back in the 1930's. The first one was pretty good, but as is often the case with the "old" stuff misses out on a MAJOR future development(in avi ...more
Jared Millet
What. Absolute. Dreck. And such a disappointment too, since Campbell is so revered by other science fiction authors for his editorial work on Astounding. When I subscribed to it in its later incarnation as Analog, I eventually got tired of it when it seemed that it was nothing but fiction for engineers, by engineers, about engineers. Now I see the roots of that go deep.

So why is this book so bad? Imagine Star Wars if the scene where the rebel leader explains the Death Star plans went on for two
Clifton Toliver
Nov 23, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sci-fi
Great classic science fiction novel. I fully enjoyed reading it. Highly suggested for those of you who like reading this type of literature
Some interesting ideas, but overly technical. This was a hard one to listen to without zoning out. Initially I would rewind the audiobook a little, but I got to the point where it didn't matter because the jargon was simply not captivating. Too much detail on the workings of machines and not enough story or character development. ...more
This is three connected, sequential stories (based on 22nd century Earth) that don't quite form a novel: In the first story, our heroes Arcot and Morey must defeat an ingenious sky pirate who operates by paralyzing everyone in a plane (somehow) and stealing the sick cash money that they're still carting around in 2179. In the next story, our heroes are joined by Wade, and journey to Venus where they are immediately embroiled in a planetary war. In the final story, "The Black Star Passes", an anc ...more
Tom Britz
Jul 10, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The three stories that make up this novel were all written in 1930, so they are quite dated, yet fun. This was science fiction's adolescence. Science fiction was beginning to find its legs and John W. Campbell helped in many ways. First as a writer in this fairly new genre, he was writing some amazing works, more than a few which would be looked back on as classics. Then Campbell began his "second" career by taking the reins of Astounding in 1937 until 1971, when he died. John W. Campbell put hi ...more
Nov 28, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: splendid-sci-fi
Arcot, Morey and Wade discover there IS life on other planets, and with it comes terrible and amazing new technology that will help them save their own planet and eventually the solar system from threat of destruction!

Science fiction as a genre is relatively young, compared to what is available on the bookshelves today. A lot of more recent SF is focused on world-building and technology. But older SF is sometimes even more interesting a read than modern SF because of its lack of technology. Inst
Simon Hedge
Genocidal Hero Scientists

The heroes of these stories, Messrs Arcot, Morey and Wade, like science. I mean they REALLY like science. It is literally all they talk about. There is never any mention of women, chess or a weekend in Paris. They are differentiated from each other not by their character traits, but merely by their speciality. There is no joker, no cautious one - there is the one who is best at math, the one who is best at physics. (nb there is actually no difference at all between any o
Jan 31, 2018 marked it as dnf
I didn't want another dnf book, but when I found myself being frequently reluctant to read this, I decided there wasn't much point continuing.
The plot is fairly good, and would probably appeal to hard science fiction fans. But there were a lot of scientific info dumps that I found painfully boring. And honestly, I grew sick of such an intensely male dominated book. Apparently the world of 2017 is without the female sex. Aside from a comment about a "mere woman" not being suitable to christen th
John Yelverton
Nov 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
I have never read a science fiction book which is so heavy on the science. If this is what the majority of early science fiction was like, it's no wonder that so many people chose to enter the science and engineering fields after reading it. The book and the science is dated, but it's still a fascinating read, and the science picks up when the story lags and vice versa. ...more
Aricia Gavriel
I really wanted to like this anthology of three short works, because I read JWC as a kid, and remember adoring The Islands of Space so much, I still have the ancient paperback. Recently got my hands on this prequel ... and can only say it left me scratching my head.

This kind of storytelling must be a product of its times, because it surely wouldn't be published today, much less admired by sufficient readers to make it a best seller and classic. Sad to say, this work is rather a mess of vastly o
Warren Fournier
Jan 24, 2020 rated it really liked it
Vacillating between 3 and 4 stars, I ultimately give this the higher rank, because despite its flaws, I certainly remembered it vividly over a decade after I first read it. This was the second book I read of the legendary John W. Campbell, the first being "The Ultimate Weapon," of which I had not been a fan. But "The Black Star Passes," full of awe-inspiring mind visuals, action, and a sense of alien wonder, renewed my interest in the writer and his work, and ultimately led me to read the ingeni ...more
Sep 11, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: scifi
A lot of the science doesn't hold up after all these years but it is still a decent story. I give it a B-. One of the best parts actually is the Author's Introduction. Now that it is out of copyright it can be found quite easily.


These stories were written nearly a quarter of a century ago, for the old Amazing Stories magazine. The essence of any magazine is not its name, but its philosophy, its purpose. That old Amazing Stories is long since gone; the magazine of the same name today
Apr 10, 2021 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Nobody
Shelves: sf, fiction, patriarchal
One of Campbell's early novels and it shows.

It has three main characters and they have so little personality that I can't tell them apart, they are as flat as the paper they are printed on. The only growth? is the sky pirate Wade who goes to the magic shrink for a couple of months before becoming the third character.

The plot is simple, four guys invent a bunch of crazy stuff with a large amount of silly explanations, build the Earth's first spaceship, flies to Venus saves the good Venusian civi
Walter Underwood
Of historical interest only, even though there is a nice, free edition from Standard Ebooks.

We've clearly learned a lot since 1930. A lot about physics, chemistry, aerodynamics, and also about characterization, plotting, engagement, and that women exist. There is one female mentioned in the entire book, and she's essentially a prop, a passenger on a plane.

If you want to go back to this era, read the Lensmen series. Here's an introduction.
Jan 22, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sci-fi
An interesting, I'd daresay even good collection of three stories that were published back in 1953, before even the first trip to the Moon, yet they talk about interstellar travel and discovering other planets that is not out of place even now, almost 70 years later.

The stories are laser-focused on the science side of things, the characters are simply mouthpieces for the author to explain how stuff works. As someone who likes this, I didn't much too much, but it's definitely the biggest weakness
Sep 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
old school space opera

great read, excellent story. interesting how some of the scientific ‘facts’ have changed over time. very creative fictional scientific discoveries, too. always fun to see a different approach.
Joseph Carrabis
Nov 02, 2020 rated it did not like it
This is an excellent story to read to learn how much "good" writing has changed over the years. The writing is so poor it slowed me down to the point of stopping my reading several times.
As a study, excellent. As a read, not so much.
Sarah Ward
Feb 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

classic really good read of early SciFi. It is a good Space Opera from one of the masters. Take some time to go back when you first started reading science.

Roddy Williams
‘A sky pirate armed with weapons of his own invention…

First contact with an alien race dangerous enough to threaten the safety of two planets…

The arrival of a dark sun accompanied by marauders aimed at the very end of civilization in this Solar System…

These are the three challenges resting the brilliant team of scientist-astronauts Arcot, Wade and Morey. their adventures are a space-opera classic that first brought the name of their author, John W Campbell – the visionary behind the Golden Age o
Kevin Knowles
So, I decided to delve into the works of the late great John W. Campbell. He is one of the men responsible for science fiction's elevation to the literary. He was a famous editor of science fiction magazines and helped to launch the careers of Issac Asimov and Robert Heinlein. This novel is comprised of two novelettes and a novella that all tell a continuing story.

The introduction is Mr. Campbell reflecting on his work. he admits some of the flaws and is glad that his work inspired
Feb 19, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I don't know if engineering scifi is something that exists, but if it does this is it. Campbell Jr. describes technological and chemical inventions in minute detail and leaves the actual adventure as a sort of sidenote. Some enjoyable moments though. My biggest problem was probably the narrator who was equally (un)enthusiastic about space battle and new parts for a space ship. ...more
John Defrog
John W Campbell Jr is, of course, a legend of the Golden Age of Science Fiction, but I’d never had an opportunity to read any of his stories until now. This is a collection of his first three space-opera adventure stories (edited into the novel format) featuring the scientist team of Arcot, Morley and Wade. The first involves an air pirate, the second involves the discovery of an alien race on Venus, and the third involves the invasion of another alien race whose dead sun is passing through our ...more
Erik Graff
Nov 30, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Campbell fans
Recommended to Erik by: no one
Shelves: sf
My little brother is almost eight years younger. As soon as he could walk he wanted to spend his time with me. Sometimes this was fine. I often told him stories, particularly on long family drives. Sometimes I didn't want him around. When he was little this was easy enough. I'd just walk off. When he got older, he'd follow.

In the summer of '66, Fin was seven. I'd gone off with a lawn chair to read Campbell's 'Black Star' collection on the ridge past "the burn place" near grandmother Lajla's cot
Feb 16, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
John W. Campbell one of the main figures in the golden age of science fiction as an editor, but could he practice what he preached. Err, no. I don't know though if its due to when he wrote this (1930) or when I read it. Certainly it seems dated now, not the technology, but the writing style, the simplistic way everything seems to be build and some of the different names of things which today we have established names. However I am reading it when totalling different things are expected in a good ...more
Feb 19, 2014 rated it it was ok
I quite enjoyed the stories in the first two installments in this volume, and felt primed to enjoy the story of the third. The beginning premise of the third installment was intriguing, but I was utterly turned off by the portrayal of war and genocide as the default option. Out and out war as the only conflict almost equates to no actual conflict.

All of the stories bogged down for me when the author delved into highly detailed explanations of the chemistry and physics involved, but only because
Apr 19, 2014 rated it it was ok
I had high hopes for this book, but, sadly, I was disappointed. The main thing that made this such a difficult read was the dialogue/monologues. This was basically a sort-of indirect guide to creating cool stuff. It focused WAAAAYYY too much on information that surrounded engineering, so the constant "science and engineering" talk became nearly insurmountable. The stories really didn't focus much on the main issues at hand in the plots, and they almost became short textbooks on physics and build ...more
Sep 26, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013
BAD no TERRIBLE science and a writing style that is jarring to say the least.

This is supposed to be a classic of the genre so I plodded through the entire book.

I was hoping that the book would improve as the story progressed, but except for long winded descriptions of machines and circuits there was nothing in the book. This despite the fact that there are two intelligent alien life forms and cultures that could have been explored

Can't say it was worth the effort.
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John Wood Campbell, Jr. was an influential figure in American science fiction. As editor of Astounding Science Fiction (later called Analog Science Fiction and Fact), from late 1937 until his death, he is generally credited with shaping the so-called Golden Age of Science Fiction.
Isaac Asimov called Campbell "the most powerful force in science fiction ever, and for the first ten years of his edito

Other books in the series

Arcot, Morey and Wade a.k.a. The Black Star (4 books)
  • Islands of Space
  • Invaders from the Infinite
  • Arcot, Morey & Wade: The Black Star Passes/Islands of Space/Invaders from the Infinite

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