Short Reviews – The Venus Evil, Chester S. Geier

The Venus Evil by Chester S. Geier appeared in the Summer 1947 issue of Planet Stories (Vol 3. No 7).

I’ll admit that the first few times I saw the title, I kept wanting to read it as “The Venus of Evil”*, which sounds pretty hot. That missing “of” aside, “The Venus Evil” is a pretty classic example of planetary sci-fi horror. I’d actually go so far as to call it “Lovecraftian”; not “let’s fly a B-2 into Yog Sothoth’s face” Lovecraftian, but actual creepy gross horror of the unknown Lovecraftian.

Like many of Lovecraft’s tales, The Venus Evil is a survivor’s account. Only one man of a three man scientific expedition to Venus has made it back alive, and this is his account of why he killed one of his fellow crewman and why he is not facing any sort of disciplinary action for doing so. What follows is a story of greed and bizarre and monstrous creatures.

Probably what Geier best achieves is conveying the unknowable and indescribable nature of alien life; all we can do is compare it to the known, but it is so uncannily different from the known, our notions end up betraying us. Something can look like a small deer, but it is certainly not a deer. Something can look like a beautiful butterfly, but it is certainly not a butterfly. And something can look like a valuable gemstone, but it is certainly not the egg form of a vampiric quasi energy based life form. Oh, wait, nevermind, maybe it is.

I wouldn’t call this one of the “greats” of the genre or anything, but it certainly would’ve made a more than decent episode of Star Trek or the Outer Limits. Unfortunately, this is another one of those stories that you’re probably not going to find unless you get your hands on this issue of Planet Stories. According to SF Encyclopedia, Chester S. Geier “was one of the more prolific Pulp-magazine writers, [but] his short stories have never been collected in book form”. At least two of his other stories from Amazing are available on Project Gutenberg, though, so you might look for those.  Additionally, several stories released under the name Gerald Vance in the late 40s were Geier’s.

*: In fairness, it IS in the same issue as “The Martian Circe”, which I will talk about soonish.

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