Eric Frank Russell
Date: 1939 — used only — Book
Fiction, Science Fiction
Eric Frank Russell is one of the unknown greats of classic science fiction, possibly because his books tend to not remain in print for very long (unlike Heinlein and Asimov.) Sinister Barrier is one such book that is very much tied to the time in which is was written but is a good narrative nonetheless.
It starts with the deaths of scientists. Some die from heart attacks; some from apparent suicide; some from accidents that seem out of character. The only common thread is a combination of chemicals in their systems and a body part painted with iodine - but Bill Graham isn't so sure that it's just some new drug making the rounds. His suspicions are confirmed when an explosion takes out a city in Idaho, an explosion that should not have happened, and the survivor tells how a new film emulsion showed pictures of something that a scientist had told them to look for. The word needs to be gotten out.
Unfortunately, it seems that anyone who knows or suspects what the story truly is will die before he can spread the word.
This is set up in the classic horror fashion, and in fact it would make a pretty good movie (though a number of details would have to be changed for modern consumption, mostly the absurd naming of the invisible beings as Vitons. It just sounds stupid to our jaded ears.) Unfortunately, the quirks that make it a classic example of the future through the past are sometimes a little hokey, which impedes the flow of the story a bit. But it's still well-written and worth a look to the sort of person who loved Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow.