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


He Who Shrank by Henry Hasse, Armchair, 2021 (originally published in 1936) 

This novelette borrows from Ray Cummings, who made a cottage industry out of magical reducing machines. A laboratory assistant is inadvertently shrunk to the point where he can visit nuclear particles, which are actually planets. He survives encounters with giant germs, sentient machines, and other strange creatures and features of the subatomic world. Hasse was a decent writer but the premise is pretty silly and definitely overly familiar. 1/21/22

Lunarchia by Emerson Hartman, Armchair, 2021 (originally published in 1937) 

A man fleeing his enemies on Earth travels to the moon. There he discovers a human civilization that exists inside the moon and he has a series of Burroughsian adventures that follow the usual pattern. Although ERB was not a great writer, almost none of his imitators was anywhere near as good a story teller. This was published in hardcover in the 1930s and almost immediately forgotten. 1/21/22

A Man Named Mars by Rog Phillips, Armchair, 2021 (originally published in 1950)  

Typical dystopian future with a threat to humanity and two otherwise ordinary people who discover that they have the power to alter things and save the world. Phillips churned these out with regularity and while the prose is slightly better than average for the period in which he was active, his stories were usually lacking in imagination or originality. This is about average for one of his “novels,” actually just a novelette. 1/21/22

Sea Siege by Andre Norton, Ace, 1957 

A nuclear war erupts, and we see it vaguely from the perspective of a small Caribbean island. The situation is exacerbated by the appearance of mutated octopi who are intelligent and organized and who attack the coastal communities by controlling deep sea creatures which appear to be plesiosaurs. A handful of civilians and navy personnel try to mount a rescue operation while restoring essential services and pacifying the angry islanders. This was okay but not one of her better early novels. It always seemed to be on the verge of becoming interesting but never quite made it. 1/19/22

The Crossroads of Time by Andre Norton, Ace, 1956 

A novel of parallel worlds. A man from our world inadvertently becomes involves with a kind of police force that operates across multiple parallel worlds. They are battling an organization led by a maniac who wants to rule at least one of the timelines. The villain, along with some of the good guys, all possess various extrasensory powers. The hero gets trapped in a couple of dismal alternate worlds before finally being rescued and allowed to join in as the final battle finishes off the sinister plot. Okay adventure, but most of it is on the periphery of the main conflict, and it is hard to figure out how some of the alternate timelines – which include nonhuman intelligent beings and super advanced robots – could possibly have arisen. 1/16/22

The Red Death by David H. Keller, Armchair, 2021 (originally published in 1941) 

A new kind of plague breaks out. People are infected by some kind of fungus which eventually creates toadstools that extrude from the skin and then kill their hosts. Most of the human race is wiped out. The protagonist travels to a remote part of Canada where he believes it originated but his adventures are unrelated and he pretty much fails. Very downbeat ending. The pandemic made this mildly uncomfortable reading although the diseases are completely different.1/15/22

The Glyphs by Roy Norton, Armchair, 2021 (originally published in 1919) 

This was a surprisingly entertaining lost world adventure set in Guatemala. A small party of adventurers find directions to a lost city and, after some of the usual jungle adventures, reach it with the help of a noble Mayan descendant. The city is nearly inaccessible and they have to avoid mechanical traps, natural barriers, wild animals, and some puzzles before they reach their goal. The city is entirely deserted – no witch doctors or beautiful priestesses or rival factions – and they have more adventures before taking a token amount of treasure and returning to the civilized world. It reminded me of Rendezvous with Rama. Puzzles, traps, and low key adventures but no actual villains and no one dies. 1/8/22

Threader Origins by Gerald Brandt, DAW, 2021 

Although this opening novel in a new series is more ambitious and inventive than the author’s previous books, I thought it was a slight step down. The Courier books are fast paced but nicely focused and I liked the protagonist. This one is a bit less tightly structured and the protagonist is okay but not inspiring. An accident transfers him to an alternate world where he can manipulate “threads,” which actually control reality. But the world around him is a dark dystopia and he is soon caught up in a major struggle between powerful opponents. A bit slow in the middle but otherwise well told, though perhaps hampered by the need to explain so much to prep for the sequels. 1/7/22

The Knight, the Fool and the Dead by Steve Cole, BBC, 2020

All Flesh Is Grass by Una McCormack, BBC, 2020 

Two adventures of Doctor Who, in both of which he has to confront earlier versions of himself and in both of which he is pitted against an alien race that has abrogated to itself the right to determine the proper lifespan for other races. Both are set in the very distant past – the Dark Times – and both seem to be targeted at somewhat younger readers, particularly the McCormack title. I found both to be mostly trivial, well below the quality of most of the other tie-ins to the tv show that I have previously read. You could read both of them in an hour without hurrying. The cameos by the alternate Doctors are mildly amusing. 1/6/22

Mystery Moon by Edmond Hamilton, Armchair, 2021 (originally published in 1941) 

Rousing space adventure. The protagonist learns that his father may have been a famous space pirate, so he goes off to discover the truth. Almost immediately he is imprisoned on the Moon on a fake charge, so he organizes a prisoner rebellion and eventually escapes into space. There, after some routine but reasonably well told adventures, he finds his destiny. 1/3/22

Energy Zero by Gary Brandner, Zebra, 1976 

In the Big Brain’s final caper, he is stunned along with everyone else when electricity suddenly stops working anywhere in the country. He eventually tracks down another super genius, who has developed a machine that renders electrical currents inoperable. The villain wants him to join forces so that they can rule the world, but our hero is too noble for such a thing and eventually saves the day. Pretty dull. This series never reall left the ground.1/1/22