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Books for Review should be sent to: Don D'Ammassa, 323 Dodge Street, East Providence, RI 02914


The Spiders by Richard Lewis, Signet, 1978

A retired man kills a strange spider on a rural farm in England and thousands of its fellows emerge from the ground that night and begin killing humans. This was one of the many nature gone mad novels that proliferated about this time. Lewis wrote a couple more of them, none of which were remotely memorable. The attacks escalate in scale and the protagonist fears that the spiders will breed in such great numbers that they will become unstoppable. The government considers using nuclear weapons – how would that work if the country is already largely overrun? It’s all the result of a secret government project gone wrong, of course. Pretty bad. 1/20/21

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne, 1871 

This was the first book I ever read by Verne and I still think it’s his best. The protagonist and friends are rescued at sea by a revolutionary submarine commanded by Captain Nemo, whose tragic past has caused him to wage war on warships of all nations. Much of the novel is a travelogue of the ocean and while occasionally slow moving, it fascinated me as a teenager and still entertains me as a crotchety old man. Although I have several versions from different publishers, nostalgia led me to read the Windermere hardcover, the same one I first read when I was fourteen. 1/16/20

Killer Flies by Mark Kendall, Signet, 1983 

This is a horribly written and abysmally formulaic nature gone mad story, this time involving swarms of flesh eating flies that begin to kill people and animals while the authorities try to hush everything up. Kendall never wrote another novel insofar as I can tell and might have been a pseudonym. The governor is a complete imbecile and Kendall – supposedly South African – seems not to have understood how American politics and police procedures work. This was painful to read. 1/14/21

Captives in Space by Joseph Greene, Golden Books, 1960

The second in the Dig Allen series. Our three teen heroes are traveling around in their own spaceship when they find another in obvious distress. It appears deserted but later they discover there ae two six inch tall aliens aboard. Several of them have been kidnapped from their world by smugglers. After a few routine adventures, we learn that the little people are from Mercury – no one noticed that it was inhabited before this? – and our three teen heroes manage to interrupt a gang of interplanetary slavers. A decidedly inferior book with sloppy science and none of the sense of discovery found in the first in the series. 1/10/21

The Forgotten Star by Joseph Greene, Golden Books, 1959 

First in the Dig Allen series of YA space adventures, from the creator of Tom Corbett. Teenaged Allen and two male friends take off clandestinely from the moon to search for Allen’s father, who disappeared in space. They find a lost civilization inside an asteroid and rescue the adult. Although clearly meant for younger readers, parts of the story are quite entertaining, although once they reach the asteroid it is a pretty dull lost world adventure. There are some of the usual implausible situations designed to explain how teenagers can be running around in spaceship unsupervised. This is one of the series I missed as a kid, so the whole series is new to me. 1/6/21

Venus Liberated by Harl Vincent, Armchair, 2020 (originally published in 1929)

Vincent was not a stylist and his stories always felt like comic books. This is a fairly long, never before reprinted novel about a man who starts to receive psychic messages from someone on Venus. This eventually leads to a spaceflight to that planet where our heroes get involved in various conflicts among the Venusians – who are human – and find a beautiful aristocratic woman for some platonic romantic interest. I was particularly surprised at how lacking in imagination this story is. It felt as though I had already read it – several times. 1/1/31