The Outward Urge

English language

Published Dec. 21, 1959 by Michael Joseph.

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3 stars (1 review)

The Outward Urge is a science fiction fix-up novel by British writer John Wyndham. It was originally published with four chapters in 1959. A fifth chapter, originally published in 1961 as a separate short story "The Emptiness of Space", was included in later versions. The novel's stated authorship has a peculiar history. It was published as co-written by John Wyndham and Lucas Parkes, but they were different pen-names for the same writer. He had used the pen-name Lucas Parkes earlier in his career. Unlike most of Wyndham's novels, The Outward Urge was conventional hard science fiction and his publishers decided that they wanted to use the Wyndham and Parkes byline because it was "not your usual Wyndham style".

1 edition

Generational SF, but Limited

3 stars

Having now read this, I can see why it’s not listed as one of Wyndham’s classics, especially mere days after reading The Midwich Cuckoos.

However, there’s good stuff here. It’s a generational, in the same way that Cixin Liu would much later do much better. From 1959, it’s limited by an understanding of certain technical aspects, but those don’t really matter, because Wyndham doesn’t really care about the different kinds of Venusian life.

Most of the focus is on the relentless drive the characters have—the eponymous “outward urge.” That’s what makes it both grounded “hard” SF and also space opera: these are what test pilots are like, but also the numinous sense of the grander scale of the universe is indeed operatic.

If I were Wyndham’s editor, though, I’d say, “John, great stuff here, but it needs to be more than a fix-up book. And I don’t mean ‘just …