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].

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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 – 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.

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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!

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Short Reviews – Vanguard of the Doomed, by ???? as Gerald Vance

Vanguard of the Doomed is credited as by Gerald Vance, an Amazing Stories house name shared by several authors. The actual author of Vanguard of the Doomed is unknown. It appeared in the February 1951 issue of Amazing Stories and can be read here at Archive.org.

Vanguard of the Doomed

A short-wave radio enthusiast and electronics engineer meets a girl over the air-waves. While she’s short and coy, the guy ends up absolutely head over heels for her, and she seems to like him. So when she cryptically signs off, telling him she’ll get in contact with him later if she can, then doesn’t show up for over a week, he worries begins to worry and decides to investigate.

What ensues is a tense, fairly action-packed post-war sci-fi thriller. Turns out the dame is the secretary of a mad scientist… who is actually an ex-Nazi posing as the mad scientist he’s done away with and using the mad scientist’s mad science to strike a blow for a resurrected Reich. Anyway, she’s stumbled on his secret plan to draw a planetoid referred to by astronomers and the media as “The Celestial Hammer”.

Remember the Max Fleischer Superman cartoon, where the astronomer has a magnet ray that he uses to get a better look at asteroids and meteors by directing them closer to earth and disaster ensues? Basically that, but the guy is doing it on purpose because he’s a Nazi and he’s gonna hold the world for ransom Cobra Commander style.

One interesting tidbit is that the Nazi villain is named Max Borzeny. Now, Borzney isn’t a real German name, but a thinly disguised spin on Skorzeny. Otto Skorzeny’s exploits in the war brought his profile much higher than his rank and responsibilities–he was larger-than-life boogeyman both feared and admired by Allies. The Borzeny in the story bears little resemblance to Skorzeny, but it is indicative of some of the mystique of SS Commando who, only a few years later, would be turned into ‘a real life pulp hero’ in Charles Foley’s hagiography Commando Extraordinary. Also worth noting, that despite being a relatively minor figure in the Reich, Skorzeny would go on after the war to basically become the real life Red Skull.