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The Crystal Crypt: A Short Science Fiction Novel

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Stark terror ruled the Inner-Flight ship on that last Mars-Terra run. For the black-clad Leiters were on the prowl ... and the grim red planet was not far behind. First published in 1954.


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Stark terror ruled the Inner-Flight ship on that last Mars-Terra run. For the black-clad Leiters were on the prowl ... and the grim red planet was not far behind. First published in 1954.

30 review for The Crystal Crypt: A Short Science Fiction Novel

  1. 5 out of 5

    Bill Kerwin

    First published in Planet Stories (1954), “The Crystal Crypt” is classic Dick, presenting you with a narrative that seems yawningly familiar, and then...an unexpected detail is revealed, a detail that changes the meaning of everything you have seen. The story takes place before the beginning of a war between Earth and Mars. The last Terran ship is preparing to leave the orbit of the Red Planet when it is forced to land at the final checkpoint: the Martians, having just learn that one of their cit First published in Planet Stories (1954), “The Crystal Crypt” is classic Dick, presenting you with a narrative that seems yawningly familiar, and then...an unexpected detail is revealed, a detail that changes the meaning of everything you have seen. The story takes place before the beginning of a war between Earth and Mars. The last Terran ship is preparing to leave the orbit of the Red Planet when it is forced to land at the final checkpoint: the Martians, having just learn that one of their cities have been destroyed, is looking for three saboteurs, and they insist on subjecting the passengers to a lie detector (a voice analyzer, a large metal box). The passengers are cleared, and the ship departs. But the scene shifts to the lounge, where one of the passenger/saboteurs soon begins to tell his story. It is exciting, but rather predictable too—like one of those stories of the French Resistance—until he gets to the part where we learn how he and his comrades “destroyed” the city. This tale possesses a particular attraction for the die-hard Philip Dick fan, for it features a device—referred to in the title—originally found in “Stability,” a story Dick wrote when he was nineteen and was only published posthumously. But it is also an entertaining and surprising story which I would recommend to any science fiction reader.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Skyler Myers

    "Stark terror ruled the Inner-Flight ship on that last Mars-Terra run. For the black-clad Leiters were on the prowl ... and the grim red planet was not far behind." PROs: * Easy, quick, and relaxing read * Interesting story * Good twist ending * Original use of technology * Never a dull or slow moment CONs: * Not a lot of detail * Lacking character development * The book never wraps up and left me wanting more This was the first Philip K. Dick book I ever read and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Since the book is "Stark terror ruled the Inner-Flight ship on that last Mars-Terra run. For the black-clad Leiters were on the prowl ... and the grim red planet was not far behind." PROs: * Easy, quick, and relaxing read * Interesting story * Good twist ending * Original use of technology * Never a dull or slow moment CONs: * Not a lot of detail * Lacking character development * The book never wraps up and left me wanting more This was the first Philip K. Dick book I ever read and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Since the book is short I will avoid giving away much of the plot as not to spoil anything. Even though the book is short, the author is still able to craft a rich sci-fi world, but I would have liked some more depth rather than the little hints and teasers that we are provided with. We are told that there is a civilization on Mars that seems to be distinct from Earthly civilization (called Terra), but at the same time the Martians still seem to be humans, or at least closely related to humans, but with their own unique culture and dialect. I at first thought that they were the offspring of early Earth settlers, but it seems that they have an entire ancient history to themselves, plus it is hinted at that there are other separate civilizations within the solar system. As you can see, you are given a rough outline and are left to fill in the blanks yourself. More creative minds may enjoy the book even more. The Martians and their civilization remind me of the Combine from Half-Life 2, as they are quite mysterious and always dressed in black clothing. The story remains interesting throughout and there was never a dull or boring moment to be found. There is a nice build up to the end where we are left with a slight twist that leaves the story embedded in your memory. Overall it is a very good book with a world so well crafted that I wish we could see more of it.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Raeden Zen

    A Wacky, Creative, Quick Story "Stark terror ruled the Inner-Flight ship on the last Mars-Terra run. For the black-clad Leiters were on the prowl ... and the grim red planet was not far behind." In "The Crystal Crypt," war between Terra (the new name of Earth) and Mars looms as one of Mars's great cities was destroyed. (How Mars has civilization at all is not explained.) The tension builds from the start; who destroyed the city? How did they do it? Why did they do it? "...I'll be glad to spin you a A Wacky, Creative, Quick Story "Stark terror ruled the Inner-Flight ship on the last Mars-Terra run. For the black-clad Leiters were on the prowl ... and the grim red planet was not far behind." In "The Crystal Crypt," war between Terra (the new name of Earth) and Mars looms as one of Mars's great cities was destroyed. (How Mars has civilization at all is not explained.) The tension builds from the start; who destroyed the city? How did they do it? Why did they do it? "...I'll be glad to spin you a story. And I'm sure it will be interesting enough to keep you awake..." Yes, it was interesting enough to keep me awake and entertained.

  4. 5 out of 5

    P.E.

    The short stories are among the finest by the standard of their author, though, this stern entry-level edition is severely lacking. This issue comes out as a mere printing of the texts, bound together by a cheap pixelated cover, no summary that I remember of. This is the closest you can get to shameless, botchy self-publishing at its worst. Not the best introduction by any means to the lush universes of Philip K. Dick.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Gary

    What if the problem with science fiction is that it is not formulaic enough so that readers know what they will get? The novelty is strong, but the amorphous structure doesn’t automatically draw readers in like detective novels do.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Adarsh

    It gets only 3 stars because it was pretty much predictable all the way. But, we have to remember that this book was first published in the 1960's where twists and turns were defined differently. As Philip K Dick's short stories go, it was a very short one. But, the story was filled with Dick's trademark intelligence. It narrates the tale of how Mars fights back against Earth's oppression. A very decent way to spend 20-odd minutes.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Tristram Shandy

    Our Small Town The Crystal Crypt, which was published early in 1954 in the magazine “Planet Stories” is a story with a surprise ending that may not be too surprising after all. Terra is once more in conflict, this time with her neighbour Mars. We are aboard the last passenger spacecraft allowed to leave the Red Planet before the war is likely to break out, but all of a sudden, some Martian Leiters, black-clad officers that not too dimly evoke German Nazis, enter the ship in search of three terror Our Small Town The Crystal Crypt, which was published early in 1954 in the magazine “Planet Stories” is a story with a surprise ending that may not be too surprising after all. Terra is once more in conflict, this time with her neighbour Mars. We are aboard the last passenger spacecraft allowed to leave the Red Planet before the war is likely to break out, but all of a sudden, some Martian Leiters, black-clad officers that not too dimly evoke German Nazis, enter the ship in search of three terrorists, one woman and two men, who are charged with having blown up an entire Martian town. All passengers are subjected to a polygraph examination but to no avail. The Martians leave the ship, baffled and disgruntled (I wonder who will re-gruntle them). When the ship has finally set out towards Terra, three passengers tell a young man how they entered a Martian city in the guise of native people, how they carefully planted their devices in different areas of the city and then turned tail and ran … Reading The Crystal Crypt was a rather strange and alienating experience to me in our day when terrorist attacks have cast their shadow over everyday life, and for all the antipathy those Martian Leiters filled me with, I found the trio from Terra even less prepossessing because I could not stop thinking of all the unoffending people living in the city they targeted. All in all, I found this short story less intriguing in terms of Dick’s typical ability to come up with fascinating ideas.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Sara Martin

    Overview “The Crystal Crypt” is one of twelve science fiction short stories written by Philip K. Dick. The story opens with the scene of the last flight of Terrans or people from Earth heading out of Mars. The space ship is ordered by Martian air space control to land again. The occupants are nervous, fearful that they won’t actually be permitted to leave Mars after all. The environment on Mars had become more hostile toward non-Martians and the possibility of war was building up between Mars and Overview “The Crystal Crypt” is one of twelve science fiction short stories written by Philip K. Dick. The story opens with the scene of the last flight of Terrans or people from Earth heading out of Mars. The space ship is ordered by Martian air space control to land again. The occupants are nervous, fearful that they won’t actually be permitted to leave Mars after all. The environment on Mars had become more hostile toward non-Martians and the possibility of war was building up between Mars and Earth. The Martian authorities come on the Inner Flight Ship looking for three specific people who are responsible for eliminating the main city of Mars. The lie detector box does not indicate any of the passengers so the authorities allow the ship to leave. Would the story have a different ending if the Terrans would not be overconfident of their successful escape from Mars? In this story review, I want to point out aspects in this story that pertain to ecology, social commentary, and theology. Ecology This story seems to have an ecological system centered on commercialism between Mars and Earth. The Martians had both respect and disdain for the business savvy of the Terrans. They’re love/hate relationship reminded me of the song and dance that United States does with the Middle Eastern countries that are rich in oil and also with China which has such cheap production rates. I will mention more about this a little later in my review. Consumerism seems to be the main relationship between these two planets. Plus there seems to be a bit of a technology driven Cold War and a general mistrust between the two races. It seems that the ecological mindset in this story is one of “what can I get out of this – whether it be Terrans toward Mars or Martians with Terra. Theology The Martians were in definite subservience to the Council of Leiters. The natives of Mars were used to the laws of their Leiters and were used to bowing down to them. The Leiters thought they were given the license to be gods to the people and mete out justice on the spot. The government of Mars had the mindset that they deserved full obedience and threatened anyone who didn’t seem to respect them. They relied on their rods of pale fire to instill fear of their authority in their subjects. The lie detectors were relied on to help them decide who gets punished. The Martians had a closed theology in that they kept the Terrans from coming into their City where the main governance was based and I think that they were fearful that the Terrans would somehow contaminate their people’s subservient lifestyle. Also I can’t quite put a finger on it, but it seems as though the Terrans viewed themselves as a higher power than the Martians to a certain degree but yet knew that they were foreigners on hostile territory. The “jihadists” had an attitude of invincibility that eventually came back to haunt them. Social Commentary There were various current day likenesses that I thought of while reading this story. The portrayal of the government of Mars reminded me of Communistic closed country. They kept a heavy hand over their people and they ruled with an iron fist of fear and quick judgement. There seems to be a bit of a technology Cold War race going on similar to the Space Race that occurred between Russia and the U.S. and still goes on to some degree today. The love/hate relationship between the planets like I said earlier remind me of the strained relationship that U.S. has with some of their “allies” which remain unpredictable powder kegs to this day. And too just the fact that it seems as though Mars really didn’t like Terra’s presence on their planet and yet they needed them for their commercial presence and what they had to offer that the Martians didn’t have available resources for. Again a portrayal of countries today that really can’t stand each other and yet they are kind of dependent on the resources available to them through that other country that otherwise they would have to do without. The whole story portrayed today’s global upset that doesn’t seem to be going anywhere soon, this game of chess in which the planets in this case (and in our case today, countries) try to establish amongst themselves who is bigger and better and stronger and able to have more military clout. Conclusion This story was a good science fiction read with a focus on inner planet travel and planet politics. It also had aspects of advanced technology and the ways technology could play a lethal part in warfare. It was a good portrayal of the ever present global tension between countries and the push-pull of dependence on resources available in one country while being at political odds and underlying currents of enmity even though there’s an extent to which they depend on each other to keep both their economies thriving. I would recommend reading this short story.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Amanda

    Solid short story by PKD, (I wouldn't call it a 'short novel' like the title says, barely a novella). A quick read about three people of Earth who are being hunted by the Leiters of Mars for destroying one of their huge cities.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Velma

    Sometimes even knowing what's coming can be enjoyable - that's PKD for you.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Austin Wright

    " This story has a nice spy versus spy device that is likely influenced by various cultural motifs on Cold War espionage. One important element is that the saboteurs seem to not be fully malevolent. Their goal is to use the Martian city trapped in a crystal crypt to either win the war or avoid war. Rather than destroying the city, they chose to preserve it. In an era when the predominant vision of war involved the destruction of entire cities with nuclear bombs, this turn is welcome. Unfortunate " This story has a nice spy versus spy device that is likely influenced by various cultural motifs on Cold War espionage. One important element is that the saboteurs seem to not be fully malevolent. Their goal is to use the Martian city trapped in a crystal crypt to either win the war or avoid war. Rather than destroying the city, they chose to preserve it. In an era when the predominant vision of war involved the destruction of entire cities with nuclear bombs, this turn is welcome. Unfortunately, like all technologies the power to reduce cities to a small size can be used by either side in a conflict. The final suggestion by Thatcher, the Martian agent, is that Earth cities will be reduced as well, sparking an inevitable and endless cycle of retaliation that will be every bit as devastating as the a more conventional war. It should also be noted that this technology to reduce cities could have many positive applications. They are not dreamed up in the story, of course. As both sides prepare for armed conflict, the application of technologies are invariably violent. This is the central thesis of the novella “The Variable Man,” where faster-than-light travel is planned to be used as a weapon to destroy an entire star system. We have yet another example of a conflict between Terra and human colonials in the other planets and bodies of the solar system. In his early stories, this was Dick’s favorite geopolitical scenario, seconded only by the ever-ominous Proxima Centarui. The difference between the people who stay on Earth and those who venture out onto the cosmic frontier fascinated Dick. In this case, Mars is presented as a technology and military backwater, but it remains a potential threat to Terra. The strong police presence that the passengers on the ship and the saboteur encounter suggest that Mars was not a frontier paradise. It was more of a police state. The cause of the conflict is that Mars seems to be controlling the trade and constricting the Terra economy. Does Dick imagine a situation where Earth needs to expand to survive? This is the conclusion we draw in “The Variable Man.” Here it is presented with a more crass economic formulation. The differences are not yet so great that commerce, travel, and tourism between the two planets is discouraged."

  12. 4 out of 5

    Edwin Lowe

    A Must Read Science Fiction Story!!! A wonderful Philip K Dick Science Fiction short story! Mars and Terra (Earth) are on the verge of war and you are aboard the last space ship carrying Terrains back to their home world. Three of the passengers are on the run from Martian authorities for causing the lose of a major Martian city jut hours before the last ship to Terra was scheduled for departure. Will these three escape? A great story that I think all readers will enjoy!!!!

  13. 4 out of 5

    Alayne

    This was my first book by Philip K Dick, and it was only short. I was a bit disappointed with it as I have heard so much about this author and how great he was. However, I will try others, just to see.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Fiona

    Very satisfying ending.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Robert Conahan

    Nice short story. Well written. Succinct. Reminded me of short stories I had read as a kid. Good introduction to Phillip K Dick's work.

  16. 4 out of 5

    ♦ Madison ♦

    Pretty predictable. Not bad but nothing really noteworthy either

  17. 5 out of 5

    Magda Szewciów

    OK, OK, I know it's back from 1954, but Phil Chenevert's narration just killed it for me.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Julia

    A quick one. Read during the weekend. A Martian city is "destroyed" - a brief whodunit.

  19. 4 out of 5

    InfinitusRhode

    3.5 stars I could use one of those "snow-globe-thingies."

  20. 4 out of 5

    Shhhhh Ahhhhh

    Story within a story. Man against man. Ally is really an enemy.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Ameetha Widdershins

    Might have liked it as a child. Too predictable as an adult.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Selefa

    Well.... I think was awful. Why on earth did they share their secret to the first random guy? No point for me... very silly...

  23. 4 out of 5

    Adhoc

    The people of Terra create a debigulator and steal a martian city. Yikes!

  24. 5 out of 5

    Riccardo

    A good piece of science fiction, somewhere really banal and trivial, somewhere else cool and with suspence. But nothing special, overall.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jessica

    A really interesting short story about a heist on Mars with a twist ending I did not see coming! I highly recommend giving this classic a chance.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Carly Kirk

    So this was a relatively short story which left me feeling like it cut off right when the story was getting good. On the other hand it left me with a lot to think about. Who were the good guys and who were the bad guys? The way it's written it could be either the Martians or the Terrans. I mean good grief the Terrans (spoilers) shrunk an entire city and it's inhabitants into the size of a snow globe in order to get what they wanted from the Martians. The Martians have withheld certain technologi So this was a relatively short story which left me feeling like it cut off right when the story was getting good. On the other hand it left me with a lot to think about. Who were the good guys and who were the bad guys? The way it's written it could be either the Martians or the Terrans. I mean good grief the Terrans (spoilers) shrunk an entire city and it's inhabitants into the size of a snow globe in order to get what they wanted from the Martians. The Martians have withheld certain technologies, but what planet wouldn't in order to protect itself from hostiles and it certainly seems like Terrans hate them. So while extremely short, this is still a worthwhile read.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Forreste

    This was not my favorite Philip K. Dick story. It had some clever elements but it didn't really capture my interest.

  28. 5 out of 5

    ObiWan Canubi

    Earthlings doing what they do best, stripping the land of resources, only this land is on Mars and Mars will not take it any longer. Whether Mars kicked out the humans or they left of their own accord it is slightly unclear, but the last transport of humans are about to depart and it is possible terrorists are among them. The Capital City of Mars has been leveled to dust and the Martians demand justice, only there are no witnesses to identify the humans involved. Making use of the little leverage Earthlings doing what they do best, stripping the land of resources, only this land is on Mars and Mars will not take it any longer. Whether Mars kicked out the humans or they left of their own accord it is slightly unclear, but the last transport of humans are about to depart and it is possible terrorists are among them. The Capital City of Mars has been leveled to dust and the Martians demand justice, only there are no witnesses to identify the humans involved. Making use of the little leverage they have they try their best to find the Americans before the ship departs. Philip Marlow meets Alfred Hitchcock on the set of the Outer Limits is the only way to describe this story. Part detective story, part sci fi and a lot of that mysterious man on the train. One of Philip K. Dick's lesser know tales. Not as technological and sophisticated as some of today's imagery, they refer to Mars vehicles as "cars" and carry machine guns. The idea of technology in 1954 was to just venture into space, never mind computers, internet and holo-communications. Dick's work has been quietly adapted into some of the biggest sci-fi films in history, mostly unknown or associated with these works of art because he died in the early 1980s he wrote stories that went on to become: Blade Runner, Total Recall, Minority Report and the Adjustment Bureau to name just a few. One of the best short stories you will ever read, and best of all you never pay a penny! http://www.amazon.com/The-Crystal-Cry...

  29. 5 out of 5

    Don Henwood

    This guy was really out there. His writings are spacey, no pun intended.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Laura Rittenhouse

    This story is set on a ship leaving Mars on a return trip to Terra (presumably Earth). The book was written at a time when people thought Mars might just be inhabited. In this case by human-like creatures with darker skin. Mars and Terra are not on good terms and the last of the Terrans are on this ship, leaving the planet. The ship is stopped as the Leiter (Martian Police/Military) stop the ship in order to aprehend the 3 Terrans who destroyed an entire Martian city - wiped it off the face of t This story is set on a ship leaving Mars on a return trip to Terra (presumably Earth). The book was written at a time when people thought Mars might just be inhabited. In this case by human-like creatures with darker skin. Mars and Terra are not on good terms and the last of the Terrans are on this ship, leaving the planet. The ship is stopped as the Leiter (Martian Police/Military) stop the ship in order to aprehend the 3 Terrans who destroyed an entire Martian city - wiped it off the face of the planet. It's a good story that suffers a little by the fact that, in this day and age, we're a bit more sophisticated in our demands of inter-planetary interaction. Physiques, languages, atmosphere, and so on all are problematic and should be addressed for us to believe the tale. Mr. Dick didn't deal with any of that. In fact this was more of a political thriller than a Sci-Fi book. It's still a nice little read from a very good author.

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