West of the Sun (Dell, July 1980). Cover by Richard Corben
Edgar Pangborn is remembered now as a writer for his postapocalyptic series Tales of a Darkening World, which began in 1962 with “The Golden Horn,” later turned into the first part of Davy, one of the nominees for the 1965 Hugo Award for Best Novel. But he began writing science fiction a decade earlier, with his novelette “Angel’s Egg,” and two years later, his first science fiction novel, West of the Sun, which I’ve just reread.
Even this early, Pangborn was already doing the kind of writing that came to be called humanistic science fiction. There is advanced technology in West of the Sun: It takes place on a planet of Alpha Centauri, arrived at after a decade of space travel, which implies speeds nearly half the speed of light; and the starship Argo carries various useful small devices. But all of them are lost, or stop working, during the events of the novel. The Argo is — in the literary sense — a vehicle: It exists to get the characters into the story, which is about something else entirely.