The Crocodile of Science and an Escape Into The Future

Yesterday, I happened to catch the surly postman outside my door as he was writing out a card informing me that he couldn’t fit a parcel through the letterbox. When I eventually persuaded him to hand over the package, I noticed that it was actually a number of padded envelopes which had been fastened together with a rubber band. I looked at the postman somewhat incredulously and asked, “Did you not think to remove the rubber band so you could deliver these individually?” He blew out his cheeks, rolled his eyes and turned to leave muttering indignantly, “Don’t try and tell me how to do my bloody job.” I am clearly not equipped with the kind of finely honed visuospacial skills required to make such judgements.

As I opened the parcels and sorted through another fine batch of old books, I was thrilled to find the following two beauties had arrived so quickly. I stumbled on these titles earlier in the week as I searched for something entirely unrelated, this is often the best way to discover such gems. I knew nothing of the author D.G. Compton when I placed my opening bids, the cover and brief synopsis of each book was all I needed to make a decision. The auctions ended later that day and I was the highest (and only) bidder in both cases, securing each title for the princely sum of £1.20. And so here they are for your viewing pleasure. Click on the pictures for a larger view;

The Electric Crocodile

This novel was originally published in 1970 as The Steel Crocodile. My copy is from 1973 and was published by Arrow Books in the UK under a slightly altered title, it would later revert to its original nomenclature for all subsequent repressings. I can’t find a reason for making this change, such things strike me as being a little odd. I haven’t had a chance to read this book as yet and so here’s the rather intiguing synopsis which prompted my speculative bid;

In answer to an unanswerable future, science has created Bohn, the omnipotent computer whose flashing circuits and messianic pronouncements dictate what tomorrow will – or will not – be. But Matthew Oliver is flesh and blood and full of questions – not nearly as certain as the machine he’s appointed to serve. And the right hand of science seldom knows what the left hand is doing…

The fabulously psychedelic wraparound art is uncredited but it is clearly the work of Chris Yates who also turned in a sterling cover for Arrow’s 1972 issue of Solar Lottery by Philip K. Dick.

Compton Electric Crocodile Front

Compton Electric Crocodile Rear


Another of Compton’s novels which would be later issued under a different (much longer and odder) title, this is the first US paperback edition published by Ace in 1970. Once again, here’s the synopsis;

The Penheniot Experimental Research Village was a top-secret community with an elaborate defence system to keep away prying eyes. Inside the walls men rushed ahead with practical experiments to develop a means of time travel, while outside the everyday world fell victim to more and more plagues, strikes and rioting. The world was on the brink of chaos. Could the small band of scientists and chrononauts at Penheniot Village find a safe method of escape into the future before the violence and death outside destroyed them too?

The cover is credited to Leo & Diane Dillon who were an American husband and wife team of prolific, award winning illustrators. I particularly love the groovy futuristic purple typeface used on the front and rear.

Compton Chronocules Front

Compton Chronocules Rear

6 thoughts on “The Crocodile of Science and an Escape Into The Future

  1. Joachim Boaz 08/06/2013 / 3:14 am

    I love The Steel Crocodile…. perhaps not Compton’s best but a great read. I have Chronocues on the shelf waiting to be read. D.G. Compton is one of the unsung greats in my opinion.


    • unsubscriber 08/06/2013 / 6:27 pm

      I’ll definitely be adding him to my list of authors to explore as I’m enjoying what I’ve read so far.


      • Joachim Boaz 08/06/2013 / 9:52 pm

        Well, even if you’re disappointed with The Steel Crocodile I highly recommend The Continuous Katherine Mortenhoe (variant title: The Unsleeping Eye) (1974) — there’s even a new edition in the Gollancz masterwork series. In my top 5 sci-fi novels…


      • unsubscriber 08/06/2013 / 9:57 pm

        Thanks for the recommendation, a friend of mine has mentioned that book too so I’ll no doubt be trying to find the best cover before picking it up.


  2. Guy 13/07/2015 / 10:45 pm


    I have started reading Compton after seeing the reviews on Joachim Boaz’s website. And I loved you story about the postman.


    Liked by 1 person

    • unsubscriber 15/07/2015 / 11:38 am

      Thanks Guy, Joachim gives good blog doesn’t he! Luckily I have a different and altogether cheerier postie now! Best regards.


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