The Black Hole (1979) – Alan Dean Foster

I remember having this novel as a child. In fact, the soundtrack, the first recorded digitally, was one of the first albums I ever bought with my own money as a child. The film has been a favourite of mine for some time, flaws and all, so when I came cross the novel at a used bookstore, I snapped it up, and journeyed out, once again, with the crew of the Palomino as they traverse the galaxy for intelligent life.

I have this memory of reading this book in a small family style restaurant (after having received the book through a scholastic book order, I believe) while waiting for my dinner. I loved it then, and while it definitely moves slower than the movie, it expands on the characters and situations that are portrayed on screen.

While, it’s glossed over in the film, which is too bad, because the ending may have made more sense, in a way, the Palomino is returning to Earth. It has explored a portion of the galaxy and come back with no extra-terrestrial life. Now, on Christmas Eve, they turn towards home, and come across the largest black hole they have discovered.

And there, hanging in orbit, seemingly unaffected by the pull of gravity of the celestial monster, a long lost deep space probe, the Cygnus. The Palomino’s crew, Captain Dan Holland, First Officer Charlie Pizer, scientists Alex Durant, Kate Mcrae, reporter Harry Booth, and the ship’s robot, Vincent investigate, and find adventure and mystery at the edge of the celestial inferno.

What first, they believe is a deserted ship, is a craft filled with secrets, all over seen by Hans Reinhardt, and his robot Maximilian. Once aboard the Cygnus, our heroes find that not everything is at it seems, and there are truths that Reinhardt wants hidden.

cygnus

Reinhardt shares more with Verne’s Nemo in this version, and you could see how the story was pitched to Disney as an updated Verne tale set in space. The Cygnus, in appearance, is very much in keeping with Verne’s style.

There are sequences in the book that didn’t make it into the film (or were adapted like the recreation area sequence featuring Vincent and Bob). There are also some things that would have made for a little more believability, like Holland and the rest donning space suits before clambering across the Cygnus to the probe ship.

The ending of the book is abrupt and poorly conceived. But knowing that the film struggles with an ending from the get-go isn’t a surprise. Still, the revelation that the story happens around Christmas, that Dante is referenced near the beginning, well, the film ending makes much more sense.

My love for the film, shortcomings included, is well known, and that love, and apologist attitude applies to the book as well. Foster tries to infuse the novel with a bit more science.

It’s not the best film adapted into a novel ever, but it brought back a lot of memories reading it, and fanned my affection for the film anew.

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