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The Mightiest Machine

The Mightiest Machine is a science fiction novel by American writer John W. Campbell, Jr. The novel was originally serialized in 5 parts in Astounding Stories magazine from December 1934 to April 1935, and was published in book form in 1947 by The Hadley Publishing Co. in an edition of 1,200 copies. Campbell was a leading figure in the Golden Age of Science Fiction.

The Mightiest Machine
Mightiest machine.jpg
Dust-jacket from the first edition
AuthorJohn W. Campbell, Jr.
IllustratorR. Pailthorpe
Cover artistBetty Wells Halladay
CountryUnited States
GenreScience fiction
PublisherThe Hadley Publishing Co.
Publication date
Media typePrint (Hardback)
Followed byThe Incredible Planet 


Plot introductionEdit

The story is the first to feature Campbell's hero Aarn Munro.This space opera novel concerns the harnessing of energy from the sun and encounters with aliens who turn out not to be truly alien at all. It also touches on the legends of ancient civilizations on earth, Mu in this case, and what may have happened to them.


Astounding reviewer P. Schuyler Miller described the 1947 edition as "perhaps the climax of the super-physics school of science fiction which 'Skylark' Smith had started."[1] Everett F. Bleiler identified the novel as the paradigm of "the Campbell hard space opera," noting its "great quantity of fanciful and ingenious scientific extrapolations, fictional weaknesses, and polarized social simplistics that regard genocide with equanimity."[2]


  1. ^ "Book Reviews", Astounding, November 1950, p.94
  2. ^ Everett F. Bleiler, Science-Fiction: The Gernsback Years, Kent State University Press, 1998, p.59

Technology and Plot DevicesEdit

The novel is ground breaking in its inclusion of a wide range of advanced technology including space travel concepts such as Artificial gravity, Faster-than-light travel with Warp drive, and an early version of travel through Wormholes as important facets of the story. The protagonist also invents and employs devices such as Infrared vision googles and miniature remotely piloted surveillance drones.

Within the SiFi genera, this novel has certainly had lasting influence. For example, the technology of drawing power from a star, which is the premise of the novel's title, is a central feature of the Death Star or Starkiller Base in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. While the power from a star is not itself used to destroy a planet, the climax of the novel involves the complete, essentially genocidal destruction of an enemy's planet, an outcome which has become a frequent resolution in science fiction about interplanetary war.


The novel contains the first known use of the phrase, " infinity and beyond...," although it is unlikely the reference was picked up from by authors of Toy Story for use by Buzz Lightyear. Chapter V: "Her crew on that trip that was to lead them to infinity and beyond consisted of Aarn Munro,..."


  • "nooSFere". Archived from the original on February 14, 2007. Retrieved 2008-04-10.
  • Chalker, Jack L.; Mark Owings (1998). The Science-Fantasy Publishers: A Bibliographic History, 1923-1998. Westminster, MD and Baltimore: Mirage Press, Ltd. p. 343.
  • Tuck, Donald H. (1974). The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy. Chicago: Advent. p. 88. ISBN 0-911682-20-1.

External linksEdit