"Gnut," he said earnestly, holding carefully the limp body in his arms, "you must do one thing for me. Listen carefully. I want you to tell your master – the master yet to come – that what happened to the first Klaatu was an accident, for which all Earth is immeasurably sorry. Will you do that?"
"I have known it," the robot answered gently.
"But will you promise to tell your master – just those words – as soon as he is arrived?"
"You misunderstand," said Gnut, still gently, and quietly spoke four more words. As Cliff heard them a mist passed over his eyes and his body went numb.
Harry Bates is one of those writers that has contributed more to science fiction than anybody will ever know. While his writing generally isn't as well known as Wells or Asimov or Clarke, anybody well-read in modern science fiction - or even particularly aware of popular culture – can easily spot his influences.
Farewell to the Master is a great example of Bates' impact on sci-fi, and popular culture in general. Its also probably one of the most recognizable sci-fi short stories in the English language (seriously, don't act like you don't know what those four words were) and has been adapted into plays, inspired books, and most notably, been the basis of two blockbuster movies. Like most movies though, some of the central themes and motives from the story are changed in the movies so just because you've seen Keanu Reeves you shouldn't think you know all there is to know about the story.
The story starts with a strange alien craft appearing in-front of the U.S. Capital. A few days later two humanoids emerge from the craft, one noble looking man and one giant robot made of green metal.
"I am Klaatu and this is Gnut"
The man manages to say only this famous sentence of greeting however, before he is gunned down by a madman and at this point the robot Gnut ceases to move. The rest of the story follows a reporter as he examines the aftermath of this incident and eventually attempts to assist the robot.
The wonder of this story is the notable difference in the actions of the extraterrestrials. From the onset the aliens are shown to be benevolent and friendly, with no obvious ill will toward humanity. Furthermore, where other stories would use the death of Klaatu as a means of starting a war between the humans and aliens, Bates instead presents the aliens, particularly Gnut as a sort of wise parent figure, unconcerned with humanity acting up until forced to take action.
Who Should Read This Story
Farewell to the Master is worth a read if you're:
Looking to read one of the most often referenced sci-fi works ever written
A fan of Harry Bates
Somebody tired of the normal, “Aliens invade and we fight back” plot
Somebody who dislikes Keanu Reeves and is looking for a particularly good reason to dislike The Day the Earth Stood Still (Not that you should more reasons)
To sum everything up, read this story. Its an interesting read with a nice (though famous) plot twist that every sci-fi fan should read at least once. In all honesty, once you've read it you'll start to recognize many of the subtle references that various writers make to it in all kinds of genre, and in my opinion that makes it worth a read right there. And you know what's cool? It's free! Seriously. It's in the public domain and everything. You can find it online here. Or is you'd prefer an actual book just click here.
And as always, if you've read this story please give us your opinions on it by leaving a comment. Did you agree with this review? Did you think the story was good? Did you -gasp- think Keanu Reeves was a good Klaatu? And don't forget to subscribe and add us on Facebook and Twitter if you liked this post.
Rusty is the co-founder of How To Survive Alien Invasion Novels, and gets up to all kinds of shenanigans planning for any and all kinds of apocalypse when he's not busy reading, writing, or yo-yoing. Keep up with him and Rachel on Facebook and Twitter to get cool, space related news or click here to read more of his thoughts on the terror of alien invasion novels.