29 October 2015

Early SF Tales from the Eaton Collection: 6,000 Tons of Gold by H. R. Chamberlain

Hardcover, 349 pages
Published 1894
Borrowed from the Eaton Collection
Read January 2015
6,000 Tons of Gold by H. R. Chamberlain

This book definitely has the most awesome cover of all the ones I read in the Eaton Collection.

In it, Robert Brent, a young American man, comes into a vast fortune of Indian gold through very complicated circumstances that the novel goes through great pains to make morally above-board. The gold is worth $3,600,000,000, which is $95,000,000,000 in 2013! He wants to use the money to make the world a better place, beginning with stopping a stock market crash. H. R. Chamberlain was a journalist (a financial one, I think) and you can tell, because the mechanics of this are rendered in tediously complete detail.

What else he does with the money is pretty random: investing in aerial navigation (we don't see this come to fruition), building a super-fast ship (he sells it to the British to use only as a deterrent... apparently Britain can be trusted with it, but not France and Russia), and donating it to women's colleges as it goes to the branches "which best fitted woman for the domestic circle." I thought some terrible discussions of women's roles were about to come up, but it turns out that this can mean anything in the advanced year of 1895! The best way a women can become "best fitted" is to have all the advantages of a man.

Robert can't go too far, though, because his massive concentration of wealth threatens to destabilize the entire global economy. After a lot of lengthy and dull discussions of bimetallism and economic policy, he a group of finance ministers from all over the world dump the bulk of his gold in the bottom of the ocean.

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