Short Reviews – Temple Trouble, by H. Beam Piper (Guest Post – John Gradoville)

Today, we have a guest review from Cirsova Contributor John Gradoville–be sure to check out his fantastic raygun romance Ascension Star in the Summer issue of Cirsova, out now! Temple Trouble, by H. Beam Piper, can be found here on Archive.org.

H. Beam Piper’s SF is some of the finest ever written.  He is celebrated for his “Terro-Future History” stories and the “Paratime” parallel worlds stories.  He hit his peak in the 1950s and was one of John W. Campbell’s greatest successes.  As the editor of Astounding Magazine Campbell nurtured writers like Piper who could combine the colourful descriptions and robust action of the pulps with more technologically literate stories.  Piper was one of the pioneers of Alternative History SF.   

Published in 1951, Temple Trouble is a novella set in Piper’s Paratime Universe.  Piper’s Paratime postulates that multiple universes exist alongside each other, like lanes on a highway.  One scientifically advanced Earth has found a way to travel across those universes.  This is the Paratime Secret that has to be protected from all other Earths at all costs.  The Paratime Police are charged with doing this.

In Temple Trouble, the Paratimers have setup a uranium mining operation on an Earth which is in an early medieval stage of development.  The country with the uranium is a near-eastern monarchy, bow and arrow soldiers, wooden carts hauled by mules, ferocious and jealous gods.  To cover their operation the Paratimers have setup their own god and religion.  Their temples are covers for the Paratime “conveyors” gateway machines which ferry people and materials to and from the homeworld, using Paratime radiation.

Our story opens in the temple of the Paratime God, Yat-Zar.  Once all-powerful, Yat-Zar’s worshippers have been humbled by the followers of a vengeful and sadistic crocodile god, putting the uranium mining operation at risk.  Verkan Vall, Paratime Police troubleshooter, arrives, travelling across timelines from Homeworld. 

Vall is one of Piper’s favourite characters and appears in many of the Paratime stories.  He is hereditary nobility, deputy head of Paratime Police, a crack shot.  His weakness is that he cannot keep away from field operations, has a thirst for action.   I always like it when Vall appears in a story because he never met a technologically advanced weapon he didn’t like, or like using.

Temple Trouble then segues into a three-handed dialogue between the Homeworld uranium mining executive, Verkan Vall and the “High Priest” of Yat-Zar, who is of course a Paratime operative.   This conversation does two things.  We learn how this culture is organised and how Paratime operate.  There is a lot the reader needs to know and the dialogue is a painless way to impart the information.  Secondly it serves as the engine of the story.  As each member of the trio reveal more of what they know, the scale of the problem becomes worse and worse.  By the time the conversation is finished, we realise that something more than inter-priesthood rivalry is afoot.   That the entire operation is deep in the manure and that the lives of many of the Paratimers are at risk.

Knowing this, we are tipped into the second act of the story, how the hell can this mess be resolved.  It’s the tone that makes this story so good to read. It’s obvious from the start the Paratimers are itching to go in guns blazing.  Piper makes very imaginative use of the advanced technologies he has given his characters, especially the cross-time gateways.  Not to mention blasters of all kinds.  The Paratimers, morally confident, courageous and competent in the use of super-science, take on a deadly challenge.  Temple Trouble is pure classic pulp.  Its characters have a moral certainty and a predatory attitude towards their enemies that are no longer in vogue.  But those attributes makes for a fast-moving pulp SF adventure.  Old-school and a great read.

Review: The Long Moonlight, by RazorFist [spoiler-free]

I recently had the privilege of receiving an arc copy of RazorFist’s new story, The Long Moonlight from Castalia House.

It was a fantastic read, and the whole time, it had me thinking, if they ever try to resurrect Thief IP again for a 3rd time, Razor would be a great choice to head the story direction.

The story follows the rising and falling fortunes of Xerdes, a thief who finds himself in the employ of one of the city’s top crime lords. There are plenty of swashbuckling fights, daring capers, and deadly betrayals along the way, for a pretty edge-of-your seat read.

Razor is prone to get a bit florid and certainly has some room to grow, but The Long Moonlight is an incredibly promising first outing that bursts at the seams with his love for sword and sorcery and, yes, noir.

The story bills itself as a pulp noir crime thriller set in a low fantasy setting. There’s definitely more noir, I think, than pulp, and the pulp is more 60s and 70s pulp revival than classic pulp, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s a dark and vicious tale, bloody and unpredictable to the very end.

I would absolutely recommend that anyone who is a fan of Fritz Leiber, Thief: The Dark Project, or of our own magazine check out Razor’s new story. I, for one, can hardly wait to read his next one.

Review – Matt Spencer’s The Trail of the Beast

A while back, Matt Spencer sent me a copy of the second edition of his contemporary quasi-urban fantasy novel, The Night and the Land. A review for it can be found here.

Earlier this year, he sent us the next book in the sequence, The Trail of the Beast.

Let me tell you: it’s fantastic.

I think that the best thing Spencer does in his writing is create a mystery story, where the world and its history are the mystery to be solved. The characters we follow all have small pieces of the puzzle [though some are larger than others]: what is the Old World? What is Deschemb? Who, or what, are the Spirelights, Schomites, and Crimbone really?

There is a hidden secondary world, which some characters are in on from the beginning to some degree, while other characters come to learn more about it, themselves, and their relationship to it as the story unfolds. Individuals who only have a small inkling of the true nature of the world and the conflict they are a part of are trying to come to terms with a possible mass-cosmological shift while still discovering the nature of the old cosmology that had been kept hidden.

Okay, it maybe sounds confusing when it’s put that way…

On the surface, there a sort of Hatfield and McCoy blood-feud between two races that originate from an alternate earth. This conflict has spilled onto our world as the races have colonized and either remained hidden or tried to blend in with human society.

It kind of has a ‘werewolves and vampires’ vibe to it, but the superhuman races don’t really line up with either of those, so the results are very uncanny.

Five years have passed since the events of The Night and the Land–Rob and Sally have tried to make their own place where they can hide out from the conflict between the Spirelights and the Schomites. Sally’s little brother Sheldon is stuck dealing with the repercussions of his fight with Rob and the experiments his own people have done on him to try and figure out how Rob’s blades changed him. We also get more of Jesse and Zane, who’d been sort of failed would-be mentors to Rob in the first book, trying to solve the mysteries of what the heck the Schomites did to Sally when she was in New Orleans that kicked off the whole crazy series of events.

A Spirelight bounty hunter manages to abscond with Sally, sending Rob on a spree to look for her, as he goes uniting packs of Crimbone, upsetting the Schomite earth order, and slaughtering Spirelights, bringing the hidden war into the open in a way that neither the Earth nor the Deschembine authorities can ignore or bring to a halt.

Spencer does a fantastic job balancing the tale told from a number of perspectives. It’s an exciting and unpredictable story, both beautiful and savage.

Like The Night and the Land, The Trail of the Beast is an incredibly grisly and graphic tale; it’s definitely not for everyone. In the questionable cosmology, good and evil are not well defined, perhaps largely because the truth about its nature is so hidden–instead, you have a world where gut instinct must be trusted, because that is the only truth that can be counted on. As such, you have very few, if any, characters you can point to as ‘good guys’, though with a few exceptions of the truly perverse villains, all of the characters are somewhat sympathetic, and even relatable, despite often being at odds [at best] or being monsters [at worst].

When I reviewed The Night and the Land, one of the things I mentioned was how, despite everything that happens and despite everything that he did, I found myself almost cheering for Sheldon by the end of the book. Trail of the Beast, in a lot of ways, is Sheldon’s book–here, he is able to fight for redemption and really earn some of that sympathy. Rob becomes less of a character and more a force of nature that the other characters must survive in spite of.

I would’ve liked to see more of Puttergong… He’s around, and still an important mover, but we don’t really get anything from his perspective in this book. I mostly bring that up because, despite my normal tastes and the fact that it shouldn’t work at all, Matt Spencer actually wrote Puttergong’s perspective sections in a 1st person present tense [the rest is all 3rd person past] and he made it work! So, I actually kind of missed those bits.

Anyway, I mentioned that a big part of what makes Spencer’s world so fascinating is the mystery behind the hidden secondary world. We’re incredibly thrilled that one of the short stories that will help shed some light on the mysteries of Spirelights’ and Schomites’ past will be featured in our Fall issue! Be sure to stay tuned for details on how you can get your hands on it.

Until then, be sure to grab a copy of the Summer issue, out the first week of August!

Through Whitest Africa: Hadon of Ancient Opar, Flight to Opar by Philip José Farmer and The Song of Kwasin by Philip José Farmer and Christopher Paul Carey [Guest Post by J. Comer]

Few writers are as closely associated with the pulp tradition in SF and fantasy as the late Philip José Farmer (1918-2009).  Best known as the author of the Riverworld and World of Tiers series, Farmer penned five dozen novels and over a hundred short stories, winning three Hugo Awards across a writing career more than fifty years long.  He was the first major SF writer to deal with sexual themes as graphically as the mainstream authors of his time (The Lovers, 1952), carried to extremes with the horror-porn A Feast Unknown (1969), one of sixteen Farmer novels in which characters based on Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan appear. 

     The mention of Tarzan brings us to an aspect of Farmer’s work of interest to Cirsova.  Farmer was fascinated by the pulps and by classic adventure literature. He constantly pastiched their style and included characters referring to them, even linking many major pulp heroes and heroines into a “Wold-Newton Family” lineage.  Tarzan so intrigued Farmer that he deconstructed the science behind the ape man (Lord Tyger, 1970)  and wrote a ‘biography’ of His Lordship (Tarzan Alive (1972) as well as narrating the ultimate fate of Tarzan as a time traveler (Time’s Last Gift, 1972). 

     One aspect of Tarzan’s adventures is his penchant for discovering or finding lost cities and otherwise unknown civilizations.  Opar, which appears several times in Burroughs’ Tarzan tales, is one such, a city in the Congo whose men are hairy beasts and whose women are lovely Caucasians, such as the priestess La, modeled on Rider Haggard’s Ayesha.  Farmer could not help but be fascinated by questions about Opar’s origin and development, and pursued them in Tarzan Alive.[1]

     In Hadon of Ancient Opar he presents a tale of the Ice Age in Africa. Some readers will not care for the earthy, rough sexuality which still has the power to shock and disturb, despite the passage of decades.  Willy Ley’s “Chad Sea” and “Congo Lake” (Engineer’s Dreams, 1954) are present here as Mediterranean-like basins, while cities of a Jakob Bachofen-type matriarchy (Mother Right, 1861) flourish all around. Hadon, a sports champ/gladiator, is to become king but is instead sent on a deadly mission, and we’re off into whitest Africa, with Rider Haggard’s characters Laleela and Paga appearing alongside the Hercules-like Kwasin and the mysterious “grey-eyed god” Sahhindar; it will require very little effort on the reader’s part to realize who the ‘god of time’ is intended to be.

     While a place oddly near the actual Bantu homeland (Guns, Germs and Steel, by Jared Diamond, 1997) is designated as a black urheimat, the people of this ancient Africa are Caucasians or beast-people (Neanderthals and so on) and various crossbreeds.  While numerous black characters appear in Farmer’s work, the black erasure in these books is questionable to say the least. This reviewer understands the presence of Neanderthals in Europe and Asia, but even when Farmer wrote these books, it was pretty clear that the Neanderthals, adapted to glacial conditions, would never have been numerous in a warm climate.

     The pulpy fun continues in Flight to Opar. The crew needs to reach Hadon’s home city for the birth of his daughter, and aren’t deterred by religious war, a usurper king, and graphic descriptions of sewage being dumped. As always Farmer’s grasp of action writing is a pleasure. Finally the motley bunch reunites with Hadon’s aged father and beloved brother, and the wild action comes to an end.

     And so did Farmer, who lived to be ninety-one and a beloved great-grandfather. He left unfinished work behind, including The Song of Kwasin, a novel about Hadon’s Goliath or Hercules-ish cousin.[2]  Christopher Paul Carey finished the book and published it in Gods of Opar (2012), which collects Farmer’s Opar novels and some addenda. Kwasin becomes King of one city, with Hadon’s scheming ex and the invading army of the Sun God to keep him busy. Minruth, the usurper king, attacks the city. Kwasin is captured and humiliated, with the great Queen Awineth, tortured and enslaved, with the Atlantean doom of Khokarsa looming nearer.  The ending neatly reverses the ‘lost continent’ version of Atlantis and returns the narrative to Hadon. Carey wrote two more Hadon novels and a Khokarsa prequel, which are really outside the scope of this review.

     Ten thousand years later, La, priestess-queen of Opar, met Lord Greystoke, Tarzan of the Apes. The unrequited love between them clearly appealed to Burroughs as to his successors. La was mortal, or she wasn’t, but by and by she faded away, as the mystery of Africa faded into the twentieth century.

     What can we come away with, from Opar? A lost city, lost not only in Congo rainforest, but in lost colonialism? (Opar kept “Negro slaves” per Burroughs, who don’t play a part in the Hadon books.)  Who can resist a lost city of white matriarchs and bestial ape-men, a city crammed with gold?  Well, Wilbur Smith’s The Sunbird (1972) was probably the last novel about such a place, and in that novel the city was a Zimbabwe-like ruin, seen in a dream. La has appeared in Disney’s Tarzan cartoon as well as in several of the many, many Tarzan films, but seventy years after Burroughs’ death, what is left of his lost Africa?

     According to Farmer and to Carey, good clean fun. Leslie Fiedler called Farmer the best SF writer; Dr Isaac Asimov simply said that Farmer was “a far more skillful writer than I am.”[3] While pastiche was central to Farmer’s work, his books are both well-written and fun, and in some cases more carefully thought out than the ‘originals’. In the case of Opar, the original idea of homage to Burroughs almost vanishes behind the vast worldmaking, but a Burroughs adventure rife with gold, battle and love-hate is the result.  Recommended to pulp fans.


[1] Super-fan Den Valdron presents Oparian Fanon here; NSFW:  https://www.erbzine.com/mag19/1937.html

[2] An additional Kwasin piece finished by Carey, “Kwasin and the Bear God,” was not available to the reviewer. A future printing of Gods of Opar would do well to include this novella.

[3] This reviewer believes Dr Asimov’s remark to derive from Farmer’s well-known skill as an action writer with a penchant for sex; Asimov was infamous for writing neither of these very well.

Scratching the Pulps’ Surface A review of The Adventure Of The Naked Guide by Cynthia Ward [ Guest Post, J. Comer]

[Editor’s note: Cynthia Ward has a short story out in the Spring issue of Cirsova, which can be acquired here! We’ve also reviewed her novella, Adventure of the Incognita Countess here. The Adventure of the Naked Guide is available on Amazon.]

First: I know Cynthia Ward personally and discussed these works with her before publication.

Vinyl records can scratch.

Those of us old enough to remember the 1980s might remember what it felt like to hear scratching being deliberately used as a musical effect by DJs.  It was a remarkable instance of a bug becoming a feature.  Nevertheless, hip-hop wasn’t merely made up of sound effects or sampled records; it was something new.

When looking at Cynthia Ward’s Bloody-Thirsty Agent series, a mashup featuring Dracula’s daughter, we have the same issue. The pulps originated in the 1890s, and declined after WWII.  But a century after Edgar Rice Burroughs published “Under the Moons of Mars” and Tarzan of the Apes in 1912, the pulp genre remains. Philip José Farmer, author of the Riverworld series, often paid homage to the genre.  His “Wold-Newton” mashup is outstanding in its field.

Cynthis Ward’s Bloody-Thirsty Agent stories recall Farmer at his best.  The arc of her narrator, Lucy Harker, begins with her mother (Mina)’s rape by Dracula.  As in the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Mina gained vampiric powers, as did Lucy, a so-called dhampir.  Mina married Mycroft Holmes, who as in The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes, heads the British secret service.

Thus begins a planned story arc. In “The Adventure of the Incognita Countess” and “The Adventure of the Dux Bellorum”, Lucy travels on the RMS Titanic with Tarzan, meets Sheridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla, and becomes her lover, then saves Winston Churchill while battling pterosaurs from the Hollow Earth.  Exciting, but there’s more!

Naked Guide begins in the Lutha of Burroughs’ lesser-known The Mad King, then takes Lucy into the Hollow Earth’s “Pellicidar” to rescue Mina from Hitler/Mengele stand-in Dr Krüger. Clarimal joins them in an oddly-written scene. Meanwhile free-spirited An the Mezop chats with Lucy about spirituality, sex and the soul.  Lucy finds Mina and a terrible revelation about Mycroft Holmes and the British Empire.  What will Clarimal and Lucy do?    The daring duo continue their derring-do in “The Adventure of the Golden Woman.”

So what to make of this pulp-hop mashup?  Well, it resembles Moore’s League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and Farmer’s ‘Wold-Newton’ crossovers.  But neither Moore nor Farmer, despite writing Image of the Beast  and Lost Girls, wrestles with social injustice and LGBT issues as closely as Ward. Unlike them, she refuses to write erotica or pornography.  Her Lucy is not ‘modern’ in her attitudes, nor is Clarimal/Carmilla.  A trained fencer and experienced hiker, Ward writes action well, and pays attention to historical and linguistic research. Her stories, though fantasy, are realistic, and not about the experience of reading (the so-called ‘second-artist effect’).  This reviewer cannot claim to be unprejudiced, but Cynthia Ward does more than scratch the surface of the vast legacy of pulp. Recommended.

Short Reviews – The Boy Who Cried Wolf359, by Kendall Foster Crossen

The Boy Who Cried Wolf359, by Kendall Foster Crossen, appeared in the February 1951 issue of Amazing Stories. It can be read here at Archive.org.

I feel like there’s a popular conception of what Amazing Stories is based largely on the showcase television series, and it aligns with some of the more light-hearted Twilight Zones, and I’ve seen it in some of the stories in Thrilling Wonder, as well. A young person is confronted with the alien or supernatural, and with typical childhood bravery, the youth stands against it when even the adults will not or cannot. [See also the classic Invaders From Mars.]

The Boy Who Cried Wolf359 is a typic, and entertaining, example of this genre of science fiction. A young boy is able to pick up the telepathic communications of an alien race of fire beings who plan on settling on earth after planetforming it by setting it on fire. Of course, no one believes the lad, so after failing to convince any of the adults around him of the peril, he matter-of-factly explains his plans and goes off to the forest to face down the aliens himself.

The adults think he is going to play make-believe; his fellow youth complained they played ‘battle the Martians’ last week; the boy sets forth armed with a capgun and a water-pistol and single-handedly drives off the fire aliens landing in the woods.

No classic of science fiction, this, but it wasn’t bad. While not as funny as Joe Carson’s Weapon, I thought it read a bit better [and was certainly less PoMo].

Don’t forget, we’ve got roughly a week left on the Mongoose and Meerkat kickstarter. Be sure to back today!

 

Short Reviews – That a World Might Live, by Burt B. Liston

That a World Might Live by Burt B. Liston appeared in the February 1951 Issue of Amazing Stories. It can be read here at Archive.org.

A mining operation to dig up super radioactives at the cost of the lives of its miners crosses tunnels with an advanced scout from the Atlantis of the Inner Earth.

You’ve got Manfred Drake, the scumbag mine owner who will throw the lives of his workers away to save pennies, Luke Hayward, who Drake roped into being the foreman of his operation before knowing he was stepping into a bloodbath, and Jim Murchison, Hayward’s chief machine operator. Together, this trio get dragged to the inner earth, which is in the midst of civil and religious war, which could spill over top-side with an atomic invasion.

They get the whole rundown from Marna, the legitimate queen of Atlantis who, along with her handmaidens, are going to be used as camp women when the topside invasion occurs, if something doesn’t happen soon.

What ensues is a pretty fun Flash Gordon-meets-Pellucidar adventure. It’s worth a read.

Short Reviews – The Pursuit of the Pankera, by R.A. Heinlein [Guest Post from J. Comer]

We’re really busy this week with the day job and with plugging the Mongoose & Meerkat crowdfund and weren’t able to get the next Amazing Story review in the queue. Also, trying to wrangle advertisements for the Summer Special, which are due today! Fortunately, friend of the magazine and sometimes contributor J. Comer is filling in this week with a short review of Heinlein’s The Pursuit of the Pankera.

Love him? Hate him? What’s impossible is to ignore Robert Heinlein(1907-1988).  Not only did Heinlein pioneer publication of SF/F stories in “the slicks”, such as The Saturday Evening Post, he originated multiple ideas now standard, such as the ‘generation ship lost in space’ (Universe  and Common Sense, collected as Orphans of the Sky). While his work varied from excellent (Citizen of the Galaxy, The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress) through badly dated or mediocre (“Gulf”, Podkayne of Mars) to disgusting(To Sail Beyond The Sunset[1]), his narrative authority never waned.

Heinlein’s work is grouped into four or five periods, the last of which began with his illnesses in 1970- peritonitis and a blocked carotid artery, among others.  During this difficult period he wrote two novels: I Will Fear No Evil, a plotless sexual novel[2], and an unpublished work which his wife Virginia dismissed as “yard goods”.  This second work has had more than one name[3] and after Heinlein’s death remained among his papers, archived at the University of California at Santa Cruz.  The present reviewer looked at the fragments of the novel in the 2000s.  They were reminiscent of the later The Number of the Beast, which came out in 1980.[4]  There the matter rested for some time.

In 2019, Phoenix Pick announced that they would publish a ‘new’ Heinlein novel consisting of these fragments. This novel, titled The Pursuit Of The Pankera, as well as a new edition of The Number Of The Beast, came out in March 2020.

The plot of Pankera is that of the published Number of the Beast through about p. 185. Two couples, Zeb and Deety and Hilda and Jake(Deety’s father), meet at a party at Hilda’s home. The two couples marry that night as an unknown foe attacks.  While in hiding, Jake installs his ‘time machine’ (which jumps between alternate universes) in Zeb’s flying car.  The four then flee Earth and visit many universes, some based on famous novels. (At this point the two novels’ plots diverge).  The two longest such visits are to Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Barsoom and to E.E. Smith’s Lensman series.  In Number of the Beast there is endless bickering among the four crew as to who will lead, and with a visit to a steam-era (“Space: 1889”) British colony on Mars; the plot of Number of the Beast then goes on to include Lazarus Long and his polyamorous family of immortals amidst many allusions to classic SF.

The plot of Pankera is more coherent. The four main characters leave Barsoom, as the two women are pregnant and need an obstetrician, and they visit the Land of Oz, where Glinda installs two bathrooms in the back of their car by magic.  The future space-opera world of the Lensman books has doctors, of course, but is at war with Boskone.  So the characters befriend the Lensman of Prime Base, and make plans to fight the Panki, the Barsoomian name for the dimension-hopping enemies who forced them off Earth.  Then they find a world (“Beulahland”) where there are doctors and there is enough nudism that the unhuman Panki cannot wear human disguises (as they do once on Barsoom and once on Earth). The end of the novel has the four main characters, the Lensmen, and others unite to wipe out the Panki with an ending reminiscent of The Puppet Masters, published in 1951.

So what can we make of these two novels, which ultimately are one novel?  First of all, the publisher’s claim that they’re an experiment by Heinlein has little foundation.  Heinlein would never have been able to publish two novels which were identical for more than two hundred pages[5]; as it stood, he did not get the advance he wanted for Number of the Beast, possibly because of its quality.  So what are these books, one of which has a coherent plot and appealing action, and one of which is rambling and full of sexual references?[6]

Larry Niven, friend and colleague of Robert Heinlein, offers an answer in his Scatterbrain (2003).  Niven remarks:

A writer’s best friend is his editor…many good writers don’t understand [this], and those included Robert Heinlein…the generation of writers ahead of mine came out of an era of censorship…Robert Heinlein was the first science fiction writer to become too powerful to be censored…Heinlein should not have used that power…his earlier novels were lean and dense with ideas… But his later novels sprawl all over the place. They needed an editor!

The fact of the matter is that Number of the Beast fell victim to the no-edit clause, and that I Will Fear No Evil is the same.  Niven’s critique here was written before Pankera was published, but still stands.  Pankera is simply the best fragments of Number of the Beast, worked over by a competent editor.  The fact that the Burroughs and Smith estates acquiesced to their characters appearing also helped Pankera to work as an homage to classic SF.

Is this worth reading? For Heinlein completists, it’s a don’t-miss.  For those who’ve read some of his work, these two books are optional.  If you’ve read no Heinlein, these are not the place to start.  Of the two, Pankera is the more coherent novel by far, thanks to Heinlein’s posthumous “best friend”. For aspiring writers these two works could serve as a sort of example of how much difference a competent editor can make.  All in all, we’re better for the experience.

 

[1] Reviewed here by Jo Walton.  https://www.tor.com/2011/07/06/heinleins-worst-novel/

[2] A review is here: https://inverarity.livejournal.com/175890.html

[3] Names recorded for this manuscript include Six-Six-Six and The Panki-Barsoom Number Of The Beast.

[4] A negative review is here: https://ansible.uk/writing/numbeast.html

[5] The Dictionary of the Khazars is a counterexample but is one book whose two texts differ by one word.

[6] David Potter’s interpretation of Number of the Beast is inconsistent with reading either the Heinlein papers or Pankera but is presented here for completeness.  https://heinleinsociety.org/rah/numberbeast.html

 

 

Short Reviews – Terror Out of Zanadu, by Robert Moore Williams

Terror Out of Zanadu, by Robert Moore Williams, appeared in the February 1951 issue of Amazing Stories. It can be read here at Archive.org

Terror Out of Zanadu

The February issue continues with another adventure on Mars.

A small band is on a quest to find the strange Martian city of Zanadu. Hidden near an oasis in the harsh Martian deserts, Zanadu is said to have riches beyond imagination. The small band has reason to believe that the rumors of Zanadu’s wealth are true because one of their number has been there!

One of the party had been in the deserts, near death, when he was found by the Martians of Zanadu and nursed back to health. He has returned for his own reasons, but some of the ruffians he’s brought with him are only out for the wealth beyond imagination.

After an arduous trek, the band reaches Zanadu and is brought in by the Martians, but something is wrong. Zanadu is haunted by a force or presence, something that was not there before on the man’s first visit to the city. Why? And will they manage to escape Zanadu with their lives?

While there wasn’t a lot of story meat to this one, it was brilliantly atmospheric. There were a few places where the characters could’ve been fleshed out a bit better, and a longer story, encompassing the man’s original visit, the son’s disappearance, and the dame’s effort to find him, would’ve been great, but as it was, this was another solid hit for this issue.

Be sure to back the Kickstarter for Mongoose and Meerkat Volume 1: Pursuit Without Asking, out soon from Cirsova Publishing!

Short Reviews – The Man Who Forgot, by Charles Creighton

The Man Who Forgot by Charles Creighton appeared in the February 1951 issue of Amazing Stories. It can be read hereat Archive.org.

The Man Who Forgot

This issue offers up yet another thriller with Charles Creighton’s The Man Who Forgot.

A man wakes up amnesiac on Mars; all he remembers is that he was from earth. Right away, he gets sucked into intrigue when he meets Clara, a beautiful martian woman and loyalist, and Karn, her shifty brother who is a secessionist and member of the Martian Secret Police.

The woman introduces the man to her family as Rand Beecher, a chess historian, with the hopes that it will buy him some cover and keep her brother from taking too much an interest in him.

Turns out that the opposite is true: Karn takes “Rand” to meet a fellow secessionist, to reveal the plot that’s afoot. In fact, whomever “Rand” is, he bears a striking resemblance to the real Rand Beecher and is familiar with his works. Karn and his ally Aaron have a proposition for Rand–as a brilliant chessmaster, it’s the opportunity of a lifetime: the chance to dispassionately plan out an actual war. A war of Martian secession.

Trying to unravel the mystery of his identity, Rand concludes a number of possibilities. The most likely is that he is an earth sleeper agent, either the real Rand, or someone who resembled him, programmed by hypnosis to infiltrate the secession movement. He would either give them bad strategy or good strategy, and either harm the Martian rebel effort by misdirection or the sheer fact that whomever had set him up on earth already knew whatever gambits he had to offer the Martians. In all likelihood, he was set up with Clara’s family because of the easy contact with Karn or because the loyalists in the family were in on the operation… Or are they?

This was a pretty exciting little spy-fi adventure with a lot of twists and turns as the mystery of Rand’s real identity unravels. I don’t want to go into it too much, lest I spoil it too badly. This one’s worth reading, for sure.

Enjoy exciting pulpy adventures? Be sure to check out the new issue of Cirsova out now!

Also, don’t forget to click Notify me on Launch for our upcoming Mongoose & Meerkat Kickstarter launching next week!