Sunday, January 31, 2021

 Ace Double #11182

Ron Goulart (1933-   )


Joh Wesley Sand was blithely enjoying the cruise when 24 robots dressed like pirates swarmed up over the railing and threw him overboard after kidnapping Jenna, the daughter of Governor Peaquill.  This all transpired on a small planet in the Barnum system.  Sand had been contracted to discover the source of the freebooter menace and eradicate it.  After a substantial amount of time, Sand was washed up onto a deserted island and was rescued by five dead men.  Stumbling along the beach, he picked up a gold medallion lying on the damp sand.  Noticing a weathered shack in the immediate distance, he knocked at the door and was admitted by Anthony Dehner, a novelist whose fame arose from his blood and thunder renditions of the adventures of Evil-Eyed Jack.  He told Sand that dead men were cheaper to hire than real people, as they didn't eat and didn't care if they were paid or not.  While the two were conversing, the house was attacked by the landlord and his two sons who evicted them for non-payment of rent.  They managed to drag a bunch of bananas with them, most of which Dehner ate.  Following a clue, they traipsed up into the hills to Marcus's Inn, subtitled "The Inn of the Fat Dolphin".  After subduing a disputatious interloper (Jackdaw the Barbarian), Sand bribes the innkeeper for information regarding Jenna's whereabouts and they continue uphill to Torbush's Winery.  They meet an articulate ape named Hankwin who regales them with a cocoanut chablis that was dry, but tangy.  Torbush himself offers to show them the wine vats and leads them to the top of a tower where they have a knife fight and Torbush falls into the vat.  Doubtless he'd been suborned by the kidnappers.  Sand finds Jenna's scarf in a corn field and old Zubin points them toward the city of Delfin, where Hubley lives;  he's a gifted finder of lost objects and will help them search the Boneca Woods, a haven for cut-purses and eluders of justice.  Before they get there, they recruit a masked wrestler (known as The Masked Socialist) to help them cope with villains.  The woods are deep, dank and gloomy.  Sand gets bitten by a Delusion Worm and has hallucinations for several hours, during which he's lured into a small cabin known as the Birdsmith's house by Patsy Raposa and two of her friends who have been hired to put Sand on ice for a while.  Bethanne appears.  She is a local witch who lives a mile underground and is able to project her simulacrum anywhere on the world's surface.  She tells Sand that Jenna is being held captive in Leodoro by the local Lord Muscrow, chief of the lion men.  Apparently the evil plan is to carry Jenna down to the coast and ship her to Zumba to be sold as a slave.  But Bethanne disguises Sand and his two friends as lions (all the inhabitants of Leodoro are lion-persons) and with the help of a bribed gardener, Yuba, they find Jenna in a greenhouse and they all steal a coach and drive it to the river where they commandeer a ship and sail down to the port of Nariz.  One of the slaves (it's a galley) turns out to be an undercover agent of the PEO (Political Espionage Office), the same organization that Sand works for.  He informs Sand that the perpetrator of the kidnapping and the creator of the robotic pirates has his base on Cayora Island, a short distance off the coast.  Pondering his next move, Sand takes a walk along the beach and meets Bethanne again who gives him an invisibility cloak.  The plan involves sneaking onto the island and arresting the perpetrator.  Arriving at night, Sand dons the cloak and, seeing a tower in the distance, foots it to the base and climbs the stairs, where he finds PP, the principal cad, seated before a huge console that controls his robot army of pirates.  They fight and Sand ties him up.  Bethanne appears again and, congratulating him, observes the gold pendant around his neck belongs to her.  She invites him to share her home beneath the mountains but he turns her down and she fades out of sight.  Sand walks down to the shore and throws the medallion into the waves.


Max Kearny has two jobs.  He's the art director of an advertising agency in San Francisco, but he's also an occult detective.  Nine stories describe his efforts, usually successful, in disentangling the spiritual troubles of his friends and clients.  PLEASE STAND BY concerns an old friend of Max's who is in love with a girl who's also being courted by another cartoonist.  Dan, the friend, is suffering from elephantiasis;  not the disease, but the embarrassment of turning into an elephant on holidays.  On Thanksgiving he ate a bale of hay and with Christmas coming up, he wants Max to de-elephantize him so Ken Westerland won't beat him in wooing Anne.  Complications are devolved, another magician, Waller, enters the plot, and the denoument occurs in Sausalito, across the Golden Gate Bridge, with Max on the back of Dan the elephant chasing Ken down Bridgeway street.  In HELP STAMP OUT CHESNEY,  Carolyn Chesney has accidentally caught her uncle Bryan's poultergeist.  Bryan is a script writer for a local TV Detective show and he's been suffering from the poultergeist invasion that was started by the late writer Robert Wellington who doesn't like what Bryan has been doing with what was originally his idea.  Carolyn was just in the wrong place at the wrong time and the poultergeist went home with her.  Max consults with professor Sanjak of the Pasadena College of Applied Metaphysics, who suggests reasoning with Wellington's ghost.  Wellington materializes one night in Max's apartment and agrees to quit his harassment if Bryan is fired, so Max makes that happen.KEARNEY'S LAST CASE sees Max getting married to Jillian and contemplating giving up his sideline.  But his friend Walt's fiancee, Ann Upland, has become invisible and so Max decides to help one last time.  She works for a Wizard and Warlock supply company and wants to quit so she can get married but the boss won't let her.  Somewhat dazed, Max visits his old friend Pedway in his book shop and they talk about various ways of materializing Ann:  "A drug company in Bavaria has an aerosol can for it now," said Pedway.  "One swish and anybody turns visible.  Salesman left me a sample can.  Also some wolfbane made from soybeans.  Looks and smells like the real stuff.  Only hitch so far is the werewolves don't believe in it.  Thing to do for the Warlock is deactivate him, unmagic him.  Or threaten to."  Pedway gives Max "The Art of French Pastry", which is only called that to fool customs.  It's really for disarming black magicians.  Max takes the book and raids the underground lair of the supply company.  He finds Jillian there, who had come because she knew a bit of magic and was trying to help her friend Ann.  But she was being held hostage so Max looked up a spell in his book and turned the warlock into dust.

And so forth, for another six episodes...

I first read Goulart back in the sixties, when he first started publishing.  He was an original talent at that time and his work is still surprising and occasionally hilarious.  His style includes short descriptions and short sentences, but he has that most important flair for evoking mental pictures with a minimum of description.  I've tried to analyze why some writers have that gift and some don't, but it seems hard to pin down.  It's just that some books do it effortlessly while others, using the same sorts of technique, can't quite achieve it.  Of course it may all be in the eye of the individual reader (me) and not be a real phenomenon at all, but after a lifetime of perusing, it strikes me as an actual quality.  And it doesn't necessarily make a great book, just an easily apprehensible one.  Scott's novels, for instance, read as if the author were getting paid by the word, but he's still able to build a world, word by word, brick by brick, that registers itself in the reader's brain just like it's a description of a real-world series of events.

Anyway, Goulart is well worth a peek even though he's not critically acclaimed.  But what he has chosen to be in his own field is very well expressed...  and often very funny...

This will be the last sci fi post for a while, as the month of January has receded into the past.  Many thanks to Jean for the idea and allowing me to contribute my perhaps pointless posts, haha...

Saturday, January 23, 2021


Brian Aldiss (1925-2017)

Manly Wade Wellman (1903-1986)



Two Nuls are sitting in a bar on the crossroads planet Stomin.  Jicksha had attacked Wattol Forlie earlier while the latter was lying on a stone wall contemplating the universe.  Money being the object, Jicksha felt bad later, after the two had fought, when he discovered that Forlie was a down and out gambler like himself.  A Nul was about 8 feet tall with a cylindrical body that had a number of tentacles attached to its upper region;  they weigh about a ton apiece.  Forlie had been fired from his lucrative position on planet Earth by his boss, Par-Chavorlem because he had disapproved of his boss's treatment of the local species.  The Nul had occupied Earth for about a thousand years.  Just one of the four million planets under the "protection" of the Nul, the inhabitants lived a precarious life outside the Nul strongholds, farming, husbanding and catering to the demands of their overlords.  The planet was criss-crossed with force-field protected highways that connected the principle cities with each other and served to convey timber and other natural products to the main space-port for shipment to Parnassy, the Nul home-world, and other points of interstellar commerce.  Par-Chavorlem had made a very good thing from stealing money from every shipment that left the planet due to his stingy attitude and treatment of the locals.  It was Forlie's intention to report him to the authorities on Parnassy.

Arriving at headquarters, Forlie visits Synvoret, a respected veteran of ambassadorial affairs,  and tells him about the whole-sale embezzlement and fraud being perpetrated by his former employer.  Synvoret persuades the commerce authorities to fund an inspection tour of the operation on Earth and he spends the next two years getting there.  In the meanwhile Par-Chavorlem has discovered that his perfidy is about to be unveiled, so he makes arrangements to convince the visiting inspector that his operation is completely legal and above suspicion.  He builds a smaller metropolis on the other side of the planet because the one he lives in is egregiously larger and more opulent than the rules of enterprise permit.  The Nul are more interested in peaceful commercial relations within their protectorate than in belligerent assertion of their superiority.

Gary Towler and Elizabeth Forladon are translators hired by the Nul to communicate Nul demands to the indigenes outside of the city.  Gary is a secret agent for the revolutionaries whose leader is Rivars, a somewhat impulsive and thoughtless person, brave but not the brightest bulb in the chandelier.  So when they learn about the imminent arrival of Synvoret, they plan a major uprising against the Nul, hoping to finally drive them off the planet.  When the investigator turns up, they hope to demonstrate the cupidity and rapacity of the planetary Commissioner in such an overt way that even another Nul will be persuaded of his iniquitous thievery.  But nothing seems to work:  every ploy they plot is forseen by Par-Chavorlem and even when they provide physical evidence of his chicanery, Synorvet is not convinced.  In fact, he leaves the planet assured that it's under the guidance and governance of a benign administration.  Back on Parnassy, he reports that all the rumors of duplicity on Earth are totally baseless, and that,in fact, that the natives are so violent and unruly that the Nul Empire would be better off without them.  So the tale ends with the expectation that the Nul will leave Earth because of the pugnacious denizens and that this is just the beginning of a revolution that will sweep the Nul out of the galaxy.


For generations humans have suffered under the threat of extinction by the depredations of the Cold People, the generic term for a species of giant snail-like entities that have invaded the planet, driving the mass of men into the jungles and swamps near the equator.  They are from a planet whose average temperature is around 60 degrees below zero.  The few remaining residents of Earth eke a bare living from subsistence farms and live in small villages hidden under the foliage.  Mark Darragh is a scout for a village located in the upper reaches of the Orinoco river.  He's noted for his courage and inventive imagination as well as for his non-acceptance of the present status of humanity as grovelers in the dirt before the might of the Cold People.  So he leaves his home in a canoe and paddles north to the Caribbean, looking and hoping to discover a way to defeat the intruders.  The Cold People live in domes that are refrigerated and sealed off from the atmosphere, as the snail-like creatures breath a mixture of hydrogen sulfide and ethane.  Mark arrives in Haiti and finds a dome situated on a hill in the Haitian jungle.  He pokes about without much result and returns to where he left the canoe, only to find that it was being stolen by a Cold People airship which picked it up and headed back to the dome with it.  Mark wants it back so he returns to the dome at night, when the snails are less active, climbs the outside of the edifice and finds the boat.  But he's captured by two snails who tie him up and take off in one of their torpedo-shaped aircraft.  He manages to free himself and with the speed of a snake, slashes the protective shells that protect the invaders from the poisonous oxygen atmosphere, killing them both.  Then he figures out how to fly the ship and heads north with it.  Near the Great Lakes, he spots a giant dome, bigger than any that he'd seen on the continent, and flies into the central orifice located on its upper surface.  The inhabitants soon realize that a puny human has invaded their space and they chase him waving their ray guns until they finally corner him near a dark river across which they shove him by shooting a different sort of ray at him.  Mark finds himself in a small village which has been kept intact by the snails, still inside the dome, for purposes of observation.  Mark soon assumes leadership of the small group, falling in love with the headman's daughter at the same time, and invents a plan of escape.  He creates a disturbance, causing six snails to fly into the village in one of their ships.  Luring them into one of the houses, he collapses the roof on them which tears holes in their protective suits and the entire village escapes in the ship.  Flying south, they eventually reach Mark's village and call a meeting of all the surrounding communities, resulting in a unified commitment to revolution.  The reader is left to assume that with Yankee determination and sly cunning, humanity will soon drive off the hated intruders

These were both pretty good adventure stories, i thought.  I guess the "Destroyers" one was abridged because it was too long to fit into the Ace Double format.  Aldiss was a well-known British science fiction writer with a lot of publications to his credit.  Wellman's reputation was more in the horror/fantasy line, although he wrote all sorts of books, even Westerns.  I'd say the Aldiss was a cut above the other one insofar as quality was concerned, but estimations of that kind are arbitrary at best, and another reader might disagree.  Anyway, just another example of Ace's generally readable selectivity as applied to this series...

Saturday, January 16, 2021

Robert Silverberg (1935-  )

Lan Wright (1923-2010)


In the year 3800AD Earth has colonized about a thousand worlds throughout the galaxy.  The planet Corwin is in the constellation Epsilon Ursae, about 16 parsecs away (a parsec =3.26 light years).  They are  about to be invaded by the merciless Klodni from the nearby Andromeda galaxy.  The Klodni have already decimated numerous peace-loving planets, destroying and conquering everything in their path.  In a last ditch effort to evade the fate of the other colonies, Baird Ewing has travelled in a one-man ship to Earth to seek help.  The journey lasted ll months, 14 days and 6 hours.  Baird was in stasis during the trip.  Upon landing at the spaceport, he meets a Sirian, Rollun Firnik, a short stocky colonist from nearby Sirius 4 who aggressively accosts him, asking impertinent questions about his reasons for being there.  Making an excuse, Baird walks away and registers at the "A Shred of Vitality" hotel.  A visitor arrives shortly thereafter, a scholar named Myreck from the College of Abstract Science, who invites him to give a lecture to his colleagues the next evening.  Baird agrees and goes down to dinner where he's solicited by Byra Clork, another Sirian agent, who also is interested in his presence on Earth.  It becomes evident that Earth is under threat from the powerful and belligerent Sirians, who are planning a take-over of Earth for its own good, as they believe that the planet's ancient and florid culture needs more discipline.  After dinner, Baird is kidnapped by the Sirians and subjected to the third degree, but rescued by a tall man wearing a gold mask.  Myreck re-appears and takes Baird to his College (which is invisible, being a micro-second behind "real" time).  Baird is astonished to discover that the scientists have invented a time machine, but one that only is capable of traveling into the past.  Convincing the staff members that he needs to use the machine, he projects himself three seconds into the past and wakes up in a meadow outside the city.  He robs a citizen and used the money to travel back to the city.  He buys a gold mask and rescues himself from the Sirians, then purposely commits suicide by overloading the circuitry in a phone booth until it explodes.  Then the rescued Baird returns to the College but doesn't enter it in order to avoid a temporal paradox.  Instead, he goes back to his ship and is about to take off, returning to Corwin, when yet another Baird calls him on the radio and insists on a meeting.  He goes to see the other Baird who tells him that there were four Bairds;  the one he's talking to is the one who rescued the kidnapped Baird but didn't blow himself up.  The two make a plan to steal the machine and the plans for it, then sneak into the spaceport.  One of them distracts the police while the other powers up the ship and takes off.  The distractor is killed during the take off, presumably leaving only one Baird left, the one who's going back to Corwin with the time machine.  Back on Corwin, Baird convinces the council to let him build the time machine and install it in his ship before the Klodni show up.  When the vast fleet of 750 vessels enters Corwin space, Baird takes off and projects the time beam at the fleet and sends them 5 billion years into the past.  Then, after the celebration and decorations are over with, he builds yet another mobile time machine in his basement and duplicates himself once more.  Leaving the simulacrum to stay with his family, the other one returns to Earth to fight the Sirians.


"Jones planet wasn't the best place in the galaxy to be stranded with a broken drive unit."  Argyle is sulking in a second-rate saloon in the well-used city of Jones on the planet Jones, waiting for repairs to the ship which will take four weeks at least.  He's a second grade Engineer and is morose because the planet has no telepath.  Telepaths are used for communication across the galaxy and are the only means of contact between planets and the huge, Amazon-like trading corporations that connect one world with another.  Spiros, an agent of the Dellora Corp., buys a glass of Jones brand whiskey for Argyle, and offers employment.  Apparently Argyle's wife had been a personal secretary to the owner/operator of the Dellora corporation, and since she had recently died, Pietro Dellora wanted to hire her husband to replace her.  So they travel to the planet Dellora, where Argyle takes a room in the Galactica hotel.  A lawman pays him a visit, informing him that Spiros has been assassinated with his own needle gun.  Argyle then pays a visit to Pietro's space station, the headquarters of Dellora corporation.  He finds Pietro enormously fat but mentally astute.  Back at the hotel, an attempt is made by another assassin on Argyle's life.  In the middle of the night a thin perp appears out of nowhere and shoots but misses and then vanishes again.  The police arrive in the morning and arrest Argyle for the murder of Pietro, who's been shot.  He escapes the police and hides away on a freighter outbound for Rigel 5.  He meets the arresting officer, Lawman Sworder, who, knowing of Argyle's innocence, advises him to consult with Preacher Judd on planet Earth.  Judd is the leader of the largest political party and wields enormous influence in planetary and galactic affairs.  Before Argyle can contact Judd, another attempt on his life is made:  a local jeweler is assassinated and the gun left in Argyle's hotel room.  But Sworder smells a rat and realizes that Argyle is being set up, and advises him to go back to Rigel 5.  So he does, but the ship stops half way there and the passengers are taken aboard a second ship which voyages to a dead world named Leemos.  Judd arrives and tells Argyle that Pietro's son, Alfredo, has been behind all the attempts to frame or kill Argyle, and that it's all been a devious plot to grab power.  Alfredo wants Argyle dead because Pietro has left everything to Argyle in his will.  Judd also informs him that he's immortal, and one of an increasing number of psy-heightened humans who are being born with all sorts of different psychic abilities, teleportation, telepathy, telekinesis, and others.  The theory is that with the augmented distribution of humanity through the galaxy, the expansion of mental abilities has occurred as a result.  They all return to Dellora, where a summit meeting is about to take place among all the leading trading corporations.  At the meeting, Alfredo tries to hog everything in spite of his father's will, using Argyle's psychic talents as reason to oust him ( how can trade exist if every one knows every one else's motives?).  But Argyle demonstrates that Alfredo is a psychic also and that they are not to be feared.  Alfredo fires a shot at Argyle, but Judd's secretary, who's a psy talent also, shoots him before he can get away.  So Argyle takes over the business, content in the knowledge that the Galaxy is now in the hands of the psychically talented.

Both of these were good efforts i thought.  The Silverberg was one of his first efforts and it was better than Wrights.  The latter seemed a bit hit or miss insofar as plot organization was concerned:  it read rather jerkily and although Wright was a well known author in Britain, it might have been improved by a little editing.  But it held my interest.  The Silverberg   was much better, imo of course, showing a lot thought even in the descriptions of the complex temporal events taking place in the College of Abstract Science (wonderful place-name).  Silverberg's Majipoor chronicles should be mentioned as good examples of his remarkable ability to evoke detailed cultural emulations sci fi or not...  These stories are dated, true, but still very much worth reading, being chock-full of interesting events and ideas...


Saturday, January 9, 2021


John W. Campbell  (1910-1971)



Rod Blake and Ted Penton have just left Earth in their home-made spaceship.  They're in a hurry as one of their atomic experiments blew up Europe, but they were glad to have been given a multi-cannon salute even if the operators had forgotten to remove the shells before they were fired.  They land on Mars in a patch of sand dunes near a boggy swale which is covered with three foot high dome-shaped plants with sword-shaped leaves.  Blake notices a fifteen foot Japanese maple and points it out to Ted, using Ted's voice.  Ted replies in Rod's and the two realize that the plants are telepathic and are projecting images into the minds of the recent arrivals. They reenter the ship and visit a ruined city they have spotted on the horizon.  Landing in a sort of decayed plaza, they see that the scarred pavement is covered with centaurs.  They exit the vessel and the elder centaur teaches them the centaur language and history in about 30 seconds via telepathy, which is apparently the principal means of Martian communication.  They learn that the centaurs had visited earth thousands of years before, but had returned due to the cranky and unpredictable behavior of an emerging hominid species.  In reality there aren't as many centaurs as appear to the two explorers, as some of them are the dome-shaped plants (called Thushol) they had previously encountered.  As well as possessing ESP, the Thushol are also shape-shifters.  The elder tells them that they had given up trying to distinguish the real centaurs from the imaginary ones and that it didn't make any difference as they all behaved the same anyway.  While they're talking to the centaur they notice that more Teds and Rods are popping into existence all around them.  Confusion reigns until one of the Rods sneezes, proving he's human.  That Rod feeds the other Teds drinks of tetanus and they all run off except one, proving he's the real one.  They both climb back into the ship and leave to explore other planets.

The Ganymedeans are 7'3" tall and are skinny with green hair and are divided into two groups, the Shaloor and the Lanoor.  The former are upper class rulers and the others are slaves.  Ted and Rod are in jail because the previous Earthlings had shot at the natives when they first landed and humans were now regarded as untrustworthy.  Since much of their equipment is in jail with them, Ted is able to concoct a Crotonaldehyde cocktail which has the property of turning glass to a brittle solid.  They use it to break a window and escape, stealing a car and getting caught in a traffic jam and run into a light pole.  A sticky globular sort of creature (the Shleath) chases them until Ted drives it off with an atomic flashlight.  They are caught and jailed again and anticipate being used as Shleath bait in a kind of Roman arena surrounded by bleachers which are occupied by the Shaloor.  Ted invents electric soles for their shoes as he has discovered that electricity dissolves the Shleath, which otherwise absorb any other type of organism and get bigger.  After they're shoved into the arena, they turn the boots on and trample the Shleath into submission, but one of the Shaloor, having appropriated one of their atomic pistols, overloads it and blows a hole in the arena wall through which Ted and Rod escape and dash off to their ship and leave the planet.

Callisto doesn't rotate:  one side is always pointed at Jupiter so they have 16 day days and nights.  It's a heavy metal planet with a nitrogen and carbon dioxide atmosphere.  The Callistans make machinery and buildings  out of cellular material and are mainly made of beryllium themselves.  Ted and Rod's ship is also made of that element, so while the two are being entertained and are lecturing to the denizens, other Callistan mechanics are busy taking their ship apart.  When they realize this, Ted and Rod dash off, chased by guards with air guns and wavy-edged swords.  They find refuge in a sort of factory where they are befriended by a six-legged dachsundish dog that loves borax.  It's name is gkrthps so they call it "pipeline" instead.  Stealing a bio-car, operated by muscles that drive sets of feet, they hot-foot it to the landing field and retrieve their ship before it is totally vandalized and leave.  Then they pay a brief visit back to Ganymede to drop off some of the doggies that seem to have the habit of multiplying exponentially when they get their favorite food:  boron.  Soon the Shleath that are terrorizing that planet will be wiped out by the voracious gkrthps's. (Memories of "The Trouble with Tribbles")

Curious about the tenth planet beyond Pluto, they fly there and land.  It's a dark place as the sun is so small and they place the ship near a cliff made of what appears to be basalt.  Exploring they observe that the surface is made of blue sand (frozen oxygen) and there's a lake nearby that's made of liquid hydrogen.  The temperature is 5 degrees above absolute zero.  Poking about, they see black cylindrical creatures rolling toward the lake.  They are immense, about 100' long by 30' in diameter.  arriving at the lake, they produce a long tubular appendage with which they suck up the liquid hydrogen.  As seems universal, the "rollers" have telepathy.  In a mental exchange, Ted and Rod learn that the rollers live a million years or more and that they are truly schizophrenic:  Their minds and bodies don't communicate, so the personalities are just along for the ride, so to speak.  When of the bodies finally dies, the mind forms a sort of vortex and lives forever.  One of the beast spots the two voyagers and the whole herd gives chase.  Ted and Rod take cover in a crevasse cut into the cliff while the pursuers mindlessly try to squeeze themselves into it, slavering over the potential juicy tidbits.  The first roller kills itself trying to mash into the entrance, so they escape.  Rod throws his water bottle into the air and shoots it, creating an explosion.  The rest of the rollers run off and the two run back to the ship and take off.

 And land on the tenth planet's moon, occupied by beings 5' high and 6' in diameter.  The ship is parked in a sort of garden the surface of which is mostly pink moss.  The name of the moon is Pornan and its a dense planet with twice as much gravity as Earth.  Telepathy is the means of communication here as well, but the users are a type of monkey that delight in making life miserable for the staider residents.  The latter drive cars that have immense inflated bumpers around each, because accidents are common.  The Krulls, as the monkeys are named, take fiendish amusement in causing traffic tie-ups, stealing items not nailed down, and creating havoc whenever an opportunity presents itself.  Their highly developed telepathic abilities enable them to project images into the minds of the more normal citizens.  The most common projection being that they themselves are invisible.  This allows them to practice all kinds of destructive and irritating pranks, such as automobile accidents.  The Krull steal Rod and Ted's ship and make it disappear, but with the aid of their space goggles, they are able to find it on top of a big rock in the park.  They stun the surrounding Krull with one of their atomic flashlights and escape the planet.


Buck Kendall of the Interplanetary Patrol and his six man crew are cruising near the orbit of Pluto when they intercept a distress call from a miner on Pluto, saying that a giant ship has landed and is firing on his dome.  The signal cuts off abruptly and Kendall races to the rescue.  He finds the mining location wiped out and all the platinum gone, but his sensors indicate that the invader is nearby.  The two ships fire on each other but it's no contest:  the larger one just absorbs the patrol ship and Buck and his crew barely manage to escape in a life boat.  They are rescued two days later and inform their superiors that the ship not only had faster than light drive, but also used neutron guns as weapons.  Since Buck is rich and an inventor, he resigns his post as lieutenant and begins experimenting in his own lab with answers to the FTL problem.  He soon realizes that extra-dimensionality would be the only way to go faster than the speed of light;  his analogy involving comparing the time it would take to run around a football field as contrasted with just dashing across it.  

Meanwhile, one thousand light years away, in the Mira system,  Gresth Gkae, commander of the 93rd expeditionary force reports to his superiors about the rich rewards being offered by the defenseless Solar System.  Mira is a variable red giant star around which the two planets Sthor and Asthor revolve.  Because of the erratic radiation, the worlds suffer from unpredictable heating and freezing eras, ice ages of indeterminate length, alternating with torrid epochs, also unpredictably protracted.  So the Solar System seems like a good place to move to.

Buck in his lab on the Moon is soon involved in studying atomic energy and the quantum world.  The lines of force observed to be perpendicular to light waves seem to offer a way to exceed light speed, but the problem of the Heisenberg Uncertainty principle has to be solved first.  (That relating to the impossibility of pinpointing the exact location of a given quantum: proton, neutron, electron, etc.).  He builds an enormous generator using mercury as a regulator because it undergoes a change of state at  very high temperatures.  So he manages to create a magnetic bubble with which to contain and manage atomic energies.  Then he designs a silver mirror to reflect the atomic reaction along a linear pathway.  This light cannon is made just in time as the Mirans have invaded and decimated everything in their path including the planet Mars and its moons, Deimos and Phobos.  Because of the Buck's invention, though, the war reaches a stalemate. 

Continuing his research, Buck realizes at last that the Heisenberg Principle can be split into four different modes: quantum, atomic, molecular and mass.  And he grasps the fact that the latter concept will give him control of FTL because it entails the total conversion of mass to energy:  not only faster than light, but instantaneous travel.  So he builds several versions of the HP:  the 4th to power a ship and the 3rd to make bombs.  In no time at all, the Mirans are driven out of the system and their own solar system is conquered.  But Earth forces are not revengeful;  they realize that the Mirans have a lot to offer and that cooperation is more productive than hostility.  So they help locate another solar system for the Mirans to move to and share the discoveries about the utilization of the quantum universe.

I liked both of these epic creations of the Golden Age quite a bit.  Campbell, as an magazine editor,  had a reputation of being one, or THE popularizer of scifi in the thirties through his encouragement of writers like Asimov, Heinlein, and others, but he was a rather cranky and conservative sort of person and didn't get along with everyone.  Opinionated and harsh upon occasion, he nevertheless raised  the quality of published stories and novels into the realm of actual literature instead of letting them wallow in the depths of the pulp world...

Saturday, January 2, 2021

THE CHARIOTS OF RA  by Kenneth Bulmer  (1921-2005)

EARTHSTRINGS              by John Phillifent alias John Rackham  (1916-1976)

Jean at Howling Frog blog suggested a January devoted to old Ace SF Doubles and since i have a few (17, i think),  she said i could participate in the "challenge" or "celebration" or whatever its termed, so:

This is Double #10293:

Roy Tully and Graham Pike grew up together, went to the same college and were fired from their jobs at the same engineering outfit.  They had no prior attachments, so they sold their stuff and bought a Cadillac intending to drive to the West Coast.  The first night they ran out of gas and while parked by the side of the road arguing about whose fault it was, a van pulled up alongside of their car and a few octopus-like creatures jumped out and began pushing them into the back, using the clubs as persuasive instruments.  Then the van drove off.  There were other kidnappees as well, some humans and beings of a more alien description.  There was a jolt and a head-spinning sensation and the van stopped to collect more victims, two of which were a giant Nordic type along with a blond skinny person named Corny.  The mental mix-master sensation was repeated several more times until the truck had quite a few occupants.  Soon they all had to get out and walk, persuaded to keep moving by the octopi creatures.  They crossed a desert environment and were attacked by giant Pterodactyl-like avians with retractable claws that snatched up several of the slaves and then went through another portal into the Myxotic Durostorum which had enormous man-eating flowers.  Many of their companions were slain and the Octopoi captors lost control of the group so Roy, together with the Norse giant and Corny, who was a porteur(capable of transiting through dimensional portals with only his mind), escaped and arrived in a city called Brorkan consisting of mud and wattle buildings and a saloon called The Friendly Mouse.  Roy met a fellow called Fangar, who was a short, thick-set warrior type from another world and they both were transported involuntarily to yet another world that much resembled Egypt in the centuries before Christ.  The two wandered down a river having adventures and meeting oppressed villagers and hermits until they reached the double city of Hamoun-Apen, situated on both sides of the OO river.  They had had an encounter with some chariot riders along the way and learned that the city had just been ransacked by a rival country (Hyktros) and was in a state of depression and devastation.  Roy stayed there long enough to befriend the two lady rulers of the cities and to invent a new sort of chariot with small wheels that permitted greater maneuverability than those used by the Hyktrosians.  Also he set up a primitive battery system that would allow the chariot drivers to zap their enemies.  

In another skirmish with some Torozoi usurpers, Roy and Fangar are accidentally transported back to The Friendly Mouse and picked up by a Landrover and carried through another couple of dimensions to the world of the Xlotls who are fiercely resisting the invasion of an army from the Irunium led by the Countess, who rules a number of different dimensionary worlds.  Fangar was originally from the Irunium, as was the Nordic person and Corny, his skinny blond porteur friend.  The Countess is delighted to see Roy, as he has developed into a porteur himself, and she wants him to help her in her vast plan to conquer all the worlds.  But when a miscalculation occurs Roy is transported back to the world of Hamoun-Apen just at the time that the army with the new chariots and the electric prods are about to attack Hyktros and the book ends.


In Earthstrings, we are in a future world that has colonized some of the nearer star systems, but is experiencing a certain amount of strife related to corporate greed and crooked politics.  Jeremy White is a reporter who tries to find out why one of the largest colonies, at Beta Hydri, has failed to make contact with Earth for several days.  Sabotage is suspected and White wants to discover the truth.  Many of the large Earthian corporations want space exploration to cease, as they want to keep their money at home.  But science and other industrial interests want to keep expanding the Universal horizons, as they see that that is where the future of humanity lies.  There are complications having to do with wills and inheritances.  Jeremy interviews a producer of popular travelogues.  Barnaby Green has received photographic reviews of the the worlds that have been colonized and has done very well out of popularizing them with the general public, but the person from whom the films have come (Kit Carew, scion of a major corporation) is also missing, having been on Beta Hydri when communication was interrupted.  Kit's sister, Abigail, has been running the Tri-C's corporation since her father recently died.  She is worried about Kit and consults with White about the possible reasons for his disappearance.  Together, they meet Francis Allen of the mega-giant corporation Allen Enterprises and her present boyfriend Miguel Santana.  Santana is an owner-operator of his own space ship and invites the others along on a trip to Beta Hydri to investigate the mystery.  They arrive at the planet and beam down to find the large and sole town on the planet covered in a sort of yellow slime.  Abigail has a lot of training in chemistry and she sees that the stuff is all crumbly and is disintegrating rapidly.  It becomes obvious that Santana, working for the Allen Corp. has used a temporary poison to kill all the inhabitants so as to discourage future space exploration.  There's a fight, Santana is slain and the survivors return to Earth, Abigail and Jeremy having gotten married aboard ship.


These were both pretty good books, the second perhaps better written than the first one.  The plot was tighter and some philosophical speculation regarding humanity and its problems was introduced in a mild way.  But in terms of action and adventure, "Chariots" had it beat:  lots of action, swords and wizardry, detailed description of "Daniel" cells as a primitive source of electricity, vivid evocations of wild chariot rides over bumpy ground, and effective elucidation of alien life forms, were all interest provoking.  But the two books did what they were intended to do, imo of course, which was to distract the mind from oppressive reality and console it with imaginary diversion.  I liked them, even though they were quite different from each other.