Forgotten Worlds: A fantastic adventure

Forgotten Worlds by Howard Browne

I’ve always thought that if I were ever fortunate enough to get a novel written, and then even more fortunate to actually get it published, then that hard-created piece of work would most certainly – and proudly – appear under my own name. But there are any number of reasons why authors today choose to use pseudonyms for their work, and more reasons still for the creators of pulp fiction material 70 to 100 years ago. For example, an author might have used a pen name for fiction and reserved his given name for his main occupation (such as mathematician Eric Temple Bell, who wrote sci-fi under the name John Taine). In another case, a publication’s collective/house name was used when multiple writers contributed novels about one long-running character (such as the house name Kenneth Robeson, used by Read More

The Black Flame: Looooooooong live the princess!

The Black Flame by Stanley G. Weinbaum

Although Kentucky-born sci-fi author Stanley G. Weinbaum is today considered a seminal writer in his chosen field, his actual career was, sadly, an exceedingly brief one. After making a huge splash with his short story “A Martian Odyssey,” featuring the truly alien, ostrichlike Tweel, in the July ’34 issue of Wonder Stories, Weinbaum shifted into high gear, creating some two dozen short pieces and three novels before succumbing to cancer in December ’35, at the age of 33. His entire career, thus, spanned a mere 18 months. I had previously enjoyed The Best of Stanley G. Weinbaum, which contains half of those short stories, as well as his terrific posthumous novel Read More

The Haunting of Toby Jugg: A pretty good study of the psychology of fear

The Haunting of Toby Jugg by Dennis Wheatley

Although English author Dennis Wheatley wrote a total of 55 novels before his death in 1977, his reputation today, I have a feeling, rests largely on the nine novels that he wrote dealing with the supernatural and the “black arts.” And if Wheatley’s name is not a familiar one to you, it is really no great wonder, as not too many of those 55 titles – mainly in the adventure/thriller genre – are in print today, and it would surprise me if you could walk into your local Barnes & Noble and purchase one. And yet, here’s a cautionary notice to all hugely popular modern-day authors, who may think their fame is of a permanent nature (are you listening, Stephen King?): For many decades, Wheatley was one of Britain’s biggest-selling authors (second only to Agatha Christie), who dependably sold 50 million books a year, ev... Read More

Darker Than You Think: A mighty gripping read

Darker Than You Think by Jack Williamson

Jack Williamson's Darker Than You Think is a one-shot horror-novel excursion for this science fiction Grand Master, but has nonetheless been described as not only the author's finest work, but also one of the best treatments of the werewolf in modern literature. It has been chosen for inclusion in David Pringle's overview volume Modern Fantasy: The Hundred Best Novels  ("a relatively disciplined and thoughtful work," Pringle writes, in comparing it to the author's earlier space operas) as well as in Jones & Newman's Read More

The Mask of Circe: Guaranteed to provide a few evenings of wonder

The Mask of Circe by Henry Kuttner & C.L. Moore

Henry Kuttner and C.L. Moore, sci-fi's preeminent husband-and-wife writing team, eased back a bit from earlier years' prolific outputs in 1948, coming out with only four short stories and a short novel. The previous year had seen their sci-fi masterpiece Fury serialized in the pages of Astounding Science Fiction, and to follow up on that brilliant piece of work, the team switched gears, as it were, and wrote what was in essence an example of hard fantasy, The Mask of Circe. This tale, which was first published in the May 1948 issue of Startling Stories, finally got the book treatment it deserved in 1971.

In The Mask of Circe, Jay Seward, a modern-day psychiatrist, tells a very strange story over a Canadian campfire. As a result of some narcosynthesis research that he had been engaged in, repressed memories of his had been unearthed, and... Read More

Beyond This Horizon: Did Not Finish

Beyond This Horizon by Robert A. Heinlein

Hamilton Felix is a genetic superman, carefully crafted from the best chromosomes his ancestors had to offer. He lives in a world where most people live long easy lives untroubled by disease, poverty, and tooth decay. It’s boring. Until Felix accidentally infiltrates a revolutionary group of elitists who want to take over the world and run things their way.

As boring as Hamilton Felix’s life is, this book about him is even more boring. There are lots of ideas in Beyond This Horizon, but very little story to connect them together and make them interesting. One problem is that most of these ideas — eugenics, selective breeding, survival of the fittest — are neither new nor particularly interesting for the 21st century reader, though that’s not Heinlein’s fault because Beyond This Horizon was published in Astounding Science Fiction in 1942. What is He... Read More