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Using the secret motive power of a lost a lost flying saucer, physicist Micael Arnott, three companions and an escaped convict are flung into the void at eight times the speed of light to eventually land, after the oblivion of acceleration, upon a world that is both extraordinary and terrifying.
Their machine disappears and they themselves also vanish one by one, Michael Arnott going first when he is on the verge of explaining the mystery of this far-flung world.
That the planet is inhabited seems obvious from queerly designed spaceships glimpsed at intervals, all of them blazoned with a "Z", which is not so much an alphabet letter as a symbol of a master-race of scientists.
In their efforts to solve the riddle of the world and system to which they have been hurled, the perplexed travellers gradually realise they are not only involved in an odyssey of space, but in a problem of Time as well. They are forced to the conclusion that, just as the first supersonic airmen paid a penalty of mental blackout for breaking the barrier of sound, so there is also a penalty for exceeding Fitzgerald's Law - namely that 186,000 miles per second is the ultimate possible speed.
John Russell Fearn (1908-1960)John Francis Russell Fearn was born in Worsley, near Manchester, on 5th June, 1908. As a child he devoured imaginative fiction, beginning to write SF at the age of ten - in imitation of Wells and Verne - on a typewriter he was given for his birthday. Extremely prolific, Fearn used many pseudonyms. During the 1930s he wrote for magazines, including the US Pulp magazines, but during the Second World War he switched to books, becoming a central figure in the post-war paperback boom. He wrote numerous westerns, crime stories and romances as well as SF, most of which appeared under the names Vargo Statten and Volsted Gridban (the latter pseudonym being taken over from E. C. Tubb).
Altogether Fearn published 18 stories in the pre-war Astounding, and went on to write more than 100 other stories in all the leading American pulp magazines through to 1948. The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction notes that 'his best work is vigorous and occasionally vivid' and the influential British SF agent and editor, John Carnell, paid this tribute: 'Fearn was one of the Greats of the earlier ages, and his name should be there with Hugo Gernsback, John W. Campbell, Stanley G. Weinbaum, Murray Leinster, and all the others whose thoughts and works form ulated today's modern science fiction.'