to SF Reviews

of SF Reviews

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

AST UPDATE 4/23/18

Return of Creegar by David Wright O’Brien, Armchair, 2018 (originally published in 1942)

This competent but uninspired space adventure originally was called Creegar Dares to Die. Creegar was wrongly convicted of a crime and barred from ever returning to Earth. But the woman he loves and the man who framed him are both there, so he is determined to do so. Unfortunately, a highly skilled bounty hunter is on his trail. Fortunately, he rises to the occasion. O’Brien’s short stories are often interesting even though he never quite made it to the point where he was appearing in reprint anthologies. This short novel is not badly done, although the plot is too predictable. 4/23/18

Science Fiction Trails 13 edited by David B. Riley, 2018, $6.95

The latest issue of this irregular magazine that blends science fiction with the Old West.  There are eight stories here of gunmen and lawmen, dinosaurs and strange technology. There is a good deal of humor sprinkled through, as you might expect, but some serious stuff as well. I learned to read with paperback westerns as my primers, so I've always had a soft spot for the form. The contributors include Cynthia Ward, J.A. Campbell, and Sam S. Kepfield. You won't find many better deals for the low cover price. 4/20/18

These Are My Children by Rog Phillips, Armchair, 2018 (originally published in 1952)

Phillips wrote a lot of very melodramatic fiction filled with fights and violence, as well as a few short stories that were actually memorable. This fairly long novel does not feel like it was written by the same author. It is restrained and thoughtful most of the time, spends a good deal of effort on characterization, and eschews the usual drama of pulp fiction. The plot? Several hundred foundlings are scattered around the country, each of whom begins to develop unusual mental abilities. As they grow older, some fear that they could become a positive threat, while others simply want to understand who is responsible. 4/18/18

The Essential Captain America Volume 7, Marvel, 2013

Another compendium of comics from a rather low point in Captain America’s career. He fights mostly Nazis, neo-Nazis, and mobsters in this volume, and is twice brainwashed into working for the enemy. He also runs for President briefly, and in another story fights a genuine vampire. Traditional villains who show up are relatively minor – Batroc, Dragonman, and Mr. Hyde. Daredevil and the Punisher make guest appearances. His girlfriend Sharon Carter is killed. I found this volume a bit dull. 4/13/18

The Essential X Factor Volume 1, Marvel, 2005 

I was never much of a fan of the X Men, and I stopped reading comics about the time Jean Grey became Phoenix. So I didn’t know that it wasn’t really her but an alien shapeshifter, and that she was later found in suspended animation, revived, and went on to reunite the original X Men as X Factor, an organization with a never particularly clear plan for helping mutants by hunting them down. Even that doesn’t work well as the Angel is killed after losing his wings. The villains are invariably minor – Frenzy and Tower and even Apocalypse. The Avengers – I never knew Sub-Mariner was a member for a while – and the Fantastic Four – and I never knew She Hulk joined them – have cameos. Most of their enemies are combinations of other villains. Power Pack was new to me as well, and struck me as terribly silly. I was not impressed. 4/10/18

The Veiled Woman by Mickey Spillane, Armchair, 2018 (originally published in 1952)

This novella is only really SF in the last few pages. A millionaire who has recently returned from Africa with a mysterious wife has to hunt down her kidnappers, foreign agents, and rescue her. Most of the story consists of shootings and fist fights. At the end we discover that she is a Martian colonist from a secret underground city and that her skin is green. In typical Spillane fashion, the bad guys kill her at the end, and then the protagonist gets his revenge. Very minor and scientifically illiterate, but the prose is not all that bad. 4/9/18

Mistress of Machine-Age Madness by Jack Williamson, Armchair, 2018 (originally published in 1940)  

A somewhat atypical novelette from this author, in that it includes some rather juvenile kinky sex. A mad scientist keeps a beautiful woman prisoner while his minions – troglodytes, etc. – help to keep the hero at bay. This was really, actively awful and dates from very early in his career. Fortunately he outgrew most of the bad habits displayed here. 4/6/18

The Impossibles by Randall Garrett and Laurence Janifer, Armchair, 2018

FBI Agent Ken Malone returns for a new case. Someone is briefly stealing red Cadillacs and witnesses give accounts ranging from the invisible man to shadowy figures that blink in and out of existence. This is a comedy so Malone rather too easily tracks down a gang of juvenile delinquents who have somehow learned to teleport themselves. But how do you capture someone who can vanish instantaneously? Lots of fun even if the plot fails to make sense – like, how is it that the only eight teleports in the world are all about the same age and live in the same neighborhood? 4/4/18

The Metal Monster by E.K. Jarvis, Armchair, 2018 (originally published in 1943) 

Jarvis was a house pseudonym and it does not appear that anyone knows who wrote this particular story. I can see why no one ever claimed it. The Uighurs somehow conquered the world and installed a regime of global repression that is unparalleled. But there is a giant robot. Is it a new invention of the conquerors or is it the salvation of the human race?  I didn’t care and if it hadn’t been relatively short I would not have finished reading about it. 4/1/18

MORE REVIEWS