I was probably around ten years old. Rooting around on my dad’s bookshelves, or maybe in one of the boxes of books he had in the attic, looking for something to read. I had no idea who Tom Godwin was, had never heard of “The Cold Equations,” when I found the copy of SPACE PRISON. This is the cover of the edition my dad had:
Of course, if you’ve read “The Cold Equations,” you already know that Tom Godwin was a miserable bastard. According to his Wikipedia entry, he suffered from spinal problems and possibly also alcoholism — which one is tempted to fit with the man who wrote SPACE PRISON, as bleak and horrible a book as you’ll find in science fiction. Four thousand humans are dropped on a high-gravity planet, rejected by a slaving alien invasion force. One thousand one hundred of them die during the first night. And it really doesn’t get any more cheerful from there. Tom Godwin, on almost every page, says to the reader, “oh, you liked this character? He falls off a mountain now. That one? Dies of exposure. This one? Eaten by goats. That one? Stabbed into meaty chunks by psychotic unicorns.” And on and on. I must have read that book twenty times. It just rips along (in many senses of the word “rips”), as shamelessly gleeful as a short genre book should be.