14

I'm trying to find information on a book I have read in my youth, or at least on the story it contained. I bought this book in a German bookstore somewhere around 1985-1995. It was one of several "mini books" they offered, about the size of a matchbox.

The story (in German), as far as I remember, was about some space travellers landing on a planet full of "sunflowers". The planet was nice and the flowers smelled sweet, the astronauts felt no hunger and thirst nor wanted to leave. Just in the last moment they noticed that the plants just made them ignore thirst and hunger to have them starve to death and fertilize the plants with their corpses.

4
  • Did the book contain one story or more than one? Commented Jun 24 at 13:52
  • I think the book only contained that single story. It was a rather simple softcover style, not like the miniboox. Commented Jun 24 at 15:50
  • This sounds so familiar, perhaps Bradbury? Commented Jun 25 at 0:51
  • How plausible it sounds. Tangentially related is Vonnegut telling us of a tree which grew currency and humans fighting to get it provided fertilizer when they killed each other. This was a Kilgore Trout novel -- KV would summarize various Trout novels.
    – releseabe
    Commented Jun 25 at 22:44

2 Answers 2

9

I don't have access to my copy right now, but I believe the book you are looking for is "1. Auftrag im All", from the Pelikan Tramp series.

Front

Back

Translation by Google Translate:

1st Mission in space

Tom Davies, space transport pilot 2nd class, is tasked with quickly and reliably transporting weed killer to the planet Ultima, whose inhabitants are threatened by a starvation catastrophe. Suddenly his spaceship is controlled by mysterious forces on a guiding beam that is unknown to him. He must land on the planet Bloquem. There he learns the cause of the weed devastation on Ultima, but that is precisely why his life is in grave danger!

One detail I remember is that the protagonist and narrator takes out a filling from a tooth so that the pain helps him to keep some clarity of mind.

Apparently this book is a translation of a story called "Take Away the Flowers" by Irma Chilton.

Front

6
  • Would it be possible to provide a translation of the blurb on the German book? A bit of description for "Take Away the Flowers" for comparison would also be helpful.
    – DavidW
    Commented Jun 25 at 3:13
  • @DavidW I have added a Google translation of the text. It doesn't really reveal much about the story, it's more like a teaser. And the only description of "Take Away the Flowers" I could find was "Two stories about a space transporter pilot".
    – AndreKR
    Commented Jun 25 at 3:36
  • That's the one for sure. I read that one a long time ago, in a hardcover edition by "Boje Verlag", together with another store by the same "space pilot" on a mission to bring vaccine against a deadly virus to a loner scientist living on a remote spacestation. He is received by the local robot servants, then basically put into a cell, incommunicando, with the robots always saying the master will be along shortly. Not unexpectedly, he finds he has to break out and manages to emit an SOS before the robots catch him and bring him back into his cell. As surmised, the master has died some time ago. Commented Jun 25 at 13:54
  • Here is the cover image: Zwischen 1969 und 1981 schuf Klaus Bürgle eine Reihe von Titelbildern für verschiedene SF-Buchreihen. It's the one by, indeed, Irma Chilton, called "Wletraumpilot Tom Davies in Action" with green space station. Commented Jun 25 at 13:59
  • Link to the Wikipedia entry for Irma Chilton: "Chilton was a teacher. Chilton's first book, Take Away The Flowers & Fuller's World, combined two science fiction stories about a pilot character named Tom Davies; Heinemann published the volume in 1967". Commented Jun 25 at 16:14
9

Could this be Space Chantey, by R.A. Lafferty?

"The men who have died, mighty Roadstrum, how do you want them disposed of?"
"Died? How many of our men died here?"
"Only a dozen or so, You'd be proud of them, such happy lazy smiles on their faces when they went!"
"Well, do they bury here or burn?"
"Oh no, neither. We use. One does not bury nor burn the essence of ecstasy. They provide the distillation of all pleasure. Those bar-snacks that you eat so avidly, are they not fine?"
"They are fine," said Roadstrum. "I wondered what they are."
"From men off the packet ship The Yellow Dwarf," said the Lotophagian. "Those men really ate and drank and roistered while they were here, day and night. I mean deep into the afternoon. They stuffed themselves and they spread themselves. They built themselves up while they were tearing themselves down. When they finally gave out there was nothing left of them but bellies and nerves. It's the jangled nerves, the fevered psychic leavings imbedded in the sweet fat that gives the particular flavor."

Lotophage was beautiful at planet-fall, subdued gold, afternoon color. Roadstrum, who captained the lead hornet intended to take the planet from morning side as he always did, but somehow he failed. He came down in an afternoon world. Then remembered that it was always afternoon on Lotophage.

You could have shipped home whole boat-loads of sugar from the sweetness of their welcome. These people really made you feel wanted. They were even kind with Crewmen Birdsong and Fiarfeather when they took them into custody. "It is that only beautiful people are allowed at large here," the Lotophagians told these unfortunates. "We bend a point, we break a point, but you two are beyond the point entirely. It's into the dungeons below the light that the two of you go." ...

As with all low-gravity planets there was a lassitude about everything. The indolence was reflected even in the subtropical flora. And no other life but the lazy one would have been possible there, due to the thin atmosphere. It was because of this that one could get high there so quickly. There air was almost entirely oxygen with no nitrogen filler, but it was still very thin. But for those who love the lazy life, it was automatically induced."


There are some notable differences from your description:

The story (in German), as far as I remember, was about

  • some space travellers yes
  • landing on a planet full of "sunflowers" It's the planet of the Lotus eaters; no sunflowers
  • The planet was nice and the flowers smelled sweet yes
  • the astronauts felt no hunger and thirst nor wanted to leave. yes
  • Just in the last moment they noticed that the plants just made them ignore thirst and hunger to have them starve to death and fertilize the plants with their corpses. No. Instead, people are lazy and indolent until they die of ecstasy / laziness, and are then turned into food
3
  • Sounds a bit familiar, although thats difficult to judge with the "original" being in german. How is the appearance of the Lotophagians described? Commented Jun 24 at 17:38
  • @ManoG1234609 Lotophage is the first of many planets, and only shows up in the first chapter. I'll edit my answer with the description of Lotophage.
    – Dave
    Commented Jun 24 at 17:54
  • 1
    A dubious match for this question but +1 for a great book by a great writer.
    – user14111
    Commented Jun 24 at 22:02

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.