Death Ship by Richard Matheson – The Time Traveler’s Almanac

Today we start the weekly #TimeTravelThursday.  This is a group of five (including me) bloggers who are going to read one story a week out of The Time Traveler’s Almanac.  That will take us into January of 2017.  Feel free to jump on and off whenever you need to.  I hope you enjoy this ride.

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Death Ship
By
Richard Matheson

Richard Matheson was an American author and screenwriter most know for his work in fantasy, horror, and science fiction.  Some of his best-known works are The Shrinking Man, Hell House, and I Am Legend (the latter having been made into full-length films three times).  In addition to the many feature films adapted from his work, he also wrote several episodes of The Twilight Zone original series in the 1960s.  “Death Ship” was first published in Fantastic Story magazine in 1953 and then later adapted for television as Episode 6, Season 4, of The Twilight Zone in 1963.

***Brief summary***

Ross, Mason, and Mickey are sent out in space to find another planet that humans can live on.  Earth is overcrowded.  They are to go different planets and get specimen samples and bring them back for research.  Passing over one planet Mason sees something.  What is it and what does it mean?

***SPOILERS AHEAD***

The story starts out with Mason, who spots something.  Him and the rest of the crew (Ross and Mickey) are flying over a planet and would be landing soon to take some specimens from the planet.  Once they arrived back to Earth some technicians would evaluate everything and decide if the planet would be acceptable for people to colonize, Earth is overcrowded.  Ross, the captain, has the spaceship go back over where they just were.  He is going to see what he sees, if anything.  They were flying over a lake so it could have been some water reflecting the light.

As they are flying back over, Mason spots it again, Ross sees it as well.  Mason wants to go bad so down.  He kind of reminds me of a kid near the toy section of a store, to me he can’t contain himself.  Ross decides to take the ship down, they need some samples anyway.

Mason seems to have the idea that it is a ship.  No other ship from Earth is supposed to be where they are, so what if it is a ship from another planet?  They land and Mickey goes out to see if they will need their helmets or if the atmosphere is good enough that they can breathe just fine.  Mickey let’s them know that the atmosphere is fine and Mason and Ross come out of the ship.  Then they see it.  It is a ship.  The ship looks like one of theirs.  It has crashed on this planet and it looks like it was a bad crash, nose first.

They decide to go investigate the ship and figure out if it is really theirs or not.  They walk around the ship and then climb up and into the ship.  Once inside, they are amazed by the damage that was done.  There is no way anyone survived this.  Mason goes down to one area and finds the bodies.  Mickey and Ross come down as well.  All are quiet because the dead bodies are theirs.

Needless to say they are a little shocked.  After a few moments of just staring, Ross has them get a tarp and cover them up.  Mickey seems to be the most freaked out by this and he wants an explanation.  Ross finally came up with an explanation, they went through a time warp and were in the future.  That made Mickey freak a little more, now he knew they were going to die.  Ross of course has the solution, they will not leave the planet.  If they don’t leave the planet then they cannot crash the ship.

Ross has them leave the ship and head back to their own.  When dinner comes Ross is the only one that eats.  After some discussion and a vote, it is voted on that they leave the planet.  Mason and Mickey would rather die trying to get back home than to die on the planet.  They start to take off.  The ship climbs…..and climbs…..and climbs.  Nothing is happening.  Maybe everything thing will be ok.  Higher and higher they get.  They are finally safe.  They are back in space.

Once they are safe, Mason makes the comment that he will stop looking for Alien life.  Then Ross has an idea.  He tells Mason and Mickey that the ship and their dead bodies were not really there.  There are aliens on the planet that can not beat them physically and so they use telepathy so they would see their dead bodies and leave.  That way they would never report the planet at all and the alien race would be safe.  Ross takes them back down to the planet.  Both Mickey and Mason are trying to convince Ross not to.  Something happens with an engine but Ross manages to land them safely back in the same spot.  He tells them to shine the spotlight out there, the ship will be gone.  They turn on the spotlight and the ship is there.

The story ends like this:
“Then, in a split second, with the knowledge, he saw Ross and he saw Carter (Mickey).  As they were.  And he took a short shuddering breath, a last breath until illusion would bring breath and flesh again.
“Progress,” he said bitterly, and his voice was an aching whisper in the phantom ship.  “The Flying Dutchman takes to the universe.”

***Final Thoughts***

Overall this is a good story.  My heart was racing at points and I was completely hooked.  I loved the story until the final two paragraphs.  In order to understand this story you need to understand some really old folklore or be willing to do a little bit of research to understand the ending.  When I read a short story I want to be able to just get away for 30 minutes and enjoy my time away from the real world.  I don’t want to have to go and research something in order to understand it.  Once you understand the folklore it is a great story.

Rating:  7/10 Stars
If I didn’t have to do research it would be a 8.5 or 9 out of 10.

***What Would I Read Next By Richard Matheson***

If I was to read another story by Richard Matheson I would read I Am Legend.

Book Description:  Robert Neville has witnessed the end of the world. The entire population has been obliterated by a vampire virus. Somehow, Neville survived. He must now struggle to make sense of everything that has happened and learn to protect himself against the vampires who hunt him constantly. He must, because perhaps there is nothing else human left.

I Am Legend was a major influence in horror and brought a whole new thematic concept to apocalyptic literature. Several humanistic and emotional themes in this book blend the horror genre with traditional fiction: we see Neville as an emotional person, and observe as he suffers bouts of depression, dips into alcoholism and picks up his strength again to fight the vampiric bacteria that has infected (and killed off) most of humankind. Neville soon meets a woman, Ruth, (after three years alone), who seems to be uninfected and a lone survivor. The two become close and he learns from Ruth that the infected have learned to fight the disease and can spend short amounts of time in the daylight, slowly rebuilding strength and society as it was.

The novel was adapted to film in 1964 as The Last Man on Earth, as Omega Man in 1971 and finally as I am Legend in 2007, starring Will Smith.

Why would I read this next?  The answer to this is quite simple, I have seen the movie but never read the book.  Everyone always says that the book is better than the movie.  I would like to find out if that is so with this story.

What do you think?  If you have read I Am Legend and watched the movie.  Is the story better?  Is the movie better?  Does the movie follow the story pretty close?

***Find Out What The Four Other Bloggers Thought Of This Story.  Do They Agree With Me?***

DJ (@MyLifeMyBooksMyEscape)
Alesha Escobar
H.M. Jones
Timothy C. Ward

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8 thoughts on “Death Ship by Richard Matheson – The Time Traveler’s Almanac

  1. Exact thing happened me; the story was great, kept me on edge, but those last two paragraphs left me scratching me head. I thought I was right – and it turned out I was – but I had Google everything to make sure.

    If didn’t have to do that, I probably would have given it a higher score, too, but for it to end so abruptly like that, and leave me to be so lost to make me do research – that really took me out of the story.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The reference at the end nearly escaped me as well, Preston. Possible confusion at the end could take away from the story, but overall it was solid and well done.

    Liked by 1 person

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