Trying to identify a novel I read - probably in the 1950s or 1960s - about a cabin boy on board a sea-going freighter who battles with an alien called "The Ancient" who has taken over the ship. The alien materializes by de-materializing the substance of an ordinary object (such as a carpet).

Almost certainly written for children or younger readers - but with some fairly ahead of their time technical concepts - for example: the implication that the alien entity had been on Earth an extremely long time and the careful adherence to conservation of mass/energy, rather than making its existence and materializations/dematerializations "magical" or "unexplained".

Since I read this book probably 60 or more years ago, I have very little recollection of fine detail - or even how the defeat of The Ancient came about.

I do remember that it was one of the first Sci-Fi books I ever read and it left me with a permanent attachment to the genre.

Originally purchased in UK.

Hardback cover was a picture of "The Ancient" (human form, shoulder length grey /white hair (center parted), dressed in a sweater and slacks, surrounded by some members of the freighter crew, pointing angrily at the story hero - the cabin boy).

Noting that the name I remember is that of the alien (The Ancient) I cannot say for certain whether this was any part of the book title.

  • To user14111 .... Thanks for the suggestion, but I can remember very little detail from the novel ...
    – Carter
    Mar 2, 2019 at 13:28
  • Welcome to Science Fiction & Fantasy! This question would be improved by going through the checklists here; How to ask a good story-ID question?
    – Valorum
    Mar 2, 2019 at 17:34

1 Answer 1


According to some fragments I found in New Statesman, vol. 46 it could be The Man from Outer Space by Douglas V. Duff (1953).

There is certainly a being (The Ancient) from some miles off in The Man front Outer Space but he remains sadly earth-bound. He is planning world conquest from a new-fangled submarine and can assume any human shape and...

Roger Lindley, disguised as an Inca, is aboard as cook (Meat-stew ? " Me fix ") in a galley...

The cover doesn't match your description, but the frontispiece seems to:enter image description here

  • This cover seems to be a pretty good match.
    – DavidW
    Mar 3, 2019 at 14:48
  • @DavidW maybe, except that it's not cabin boy who is being pointed at.
    – Ayshe
    Mar 3, 2019 at 14:53
  • This definitely the book I was looking for. Thank you Ayshe for tracking it down. The Ancient looks exactly as I remember him in both the fronticepiece noted by Ayshe and the cover noted by DavidW. Discrepencies in the image description originally posted are mine - 65 years of memory deterioration, I'm afraid ... Is there any way I am supposed to now verify or confirm that this is in fact the correct identity ??
    – Carter
    Mar 3, 2019 at 15:05
  • @Carter I'm glad it was found! You have accepted the answer, that was the confirmation needed, so nothing else is necessary.
    – Ayshe
    Mar 3, 2019 at 15:51
  • It seems that the image I had in mind was a sort of "merged memory" of the cover (suggested by DavidW) and the fronticepiece (suggested by Ayshe) ... I'm still stunned by your abilities to track this down !!! Off to Amazon to see if I can find a copy and hit the nostalgia road ... Thanks again to both of you ...
    – Carter
    Mar 3, 2019 at 16:08

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