Needle

NEEDLEI finished reading Needle by Hal Clement. I believe it was Clement’s first published novel, first published in 1950.  The book itself was a bit challenging to find, but I managed to find it for $1.00 at a used book store. Wikipedia had this to say about the plot of the novel:

The Hunter, an alien lifeform (when not inside another being, resembling a four-pound green jellyfish) with the ability to live in symbiosis with and within another creature, is in hot pursuit of another of his kind. Both crash their ships into Earth, in the Pacific Ocean, and both survive the crashes. The Hunter makes its way to shore (its erstwhile host having been killed in the crash) and takes up residence in the nearest human being it can find (as it turns out, fifteen-year-old Robert Kinnaird) without letting the human being know.

The novel is just over 200 pages total and can be a quick read for someone. I think the readers who would most enjoy this one are those who are (1.) looking for summertime beach reads; (2.) aren’t looking for hard science fiction; (3.) enjoy the quaint times of yesteryear. I also think its a good book for young teenage males or youths who can tear themselves away from their video games. Anyone who enjoyed Hardy Boys mysteries should enjoy this book.

I think the concept of the novel is interesting:  an alien taking over another living being and establishing a symbiotic relationship with the host. I’d imagine that this sort of theme has been done since, although I am not able to list any books that utilize it. This is clearly a science fiction novel due to the presence of aliens. However, its actually more of a mystery novel. The Hunter is searching for his prey and after enlisting the help of young Robert, the rest of the novel is spent detailing their efforts to deduce where his prey is hiding.

Some problems:  the ocean is a large place, a crash-landing can be violent, and there are a lot of ocean animals. So, it seems to me that its high coincidence that The Hunter and his prey are both isolated to this little beach/island. Also, when Robert and other characters deal with the aliens, they aren’t surprised, but remain almost scientifically non-chalant about the whole situation. Also, most female readers may be turned off by the lack of female characters.Finally, it was a little difficult to keep Robert’s friends on the island straight. I had a difficult time remembering which first name went with which last name and who was who.

The good: I loved reading about a time when teenagers were respectful, active, and intelligent. I liked the non-intensity, I liked following the deductions and investigation, I enjoyed picturing the reefs and jungle of the setting. Its a fun, easy-going book. Definitely not hard science fiction, but a good, solid yarn. The ending was a bit goofy, but was in keeping with the novel and helped me end my reading with a smile.

3 stars

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