Hailed as “one of the finest science fiction novellas ever written” by the SF Writers of America and the Hugo Award Winner for best novella in 1939, this novella inspired the classic films Howard Hawks’ The Thing from Another World in 1951 and John Carpenter’s The Thing in 1982. Though I’ve seen this concept ripped off multiple times, the original is a tense, paranoid, psychological thriller that translates well to the modern reader.
A group of 37 diverse scientific researchers studying in remote Antarctica discover an alien space ship in the ice, which apparently crash landed millions of years ago. A frozen body is found, and after several arguments, is dethawed for study, with the promise that only low-level organisms come back to life after freezing. Alas, the creature revives with horrifying results! As the crew slowly realizes that the creature shape-shifts, assuming the physical form complete with memories and personality, of both humans and animals alike, the men turn on another and themselves in order to find who is human and who is alien-impersonating-human.
I don’t want to spoil the fun, but one of my favorite things about this story is that the scientists actually do science to attempt to find ways to distinguish alien from human tissue. Character development is minimal – this is more about how the men work together as a team (or not) to save their own lives and stop the alien from leaving their camp. Recommended for all fans of scifi and horror, and especially fans who appreciate where it all began.
“It doesn’t fight. I don’t think it ever fights. It must be a peaceable thing, in its own—inimitable—way. It never had to, because it always gained its end—otherwise.”