Reviews by H. E. Parmer

When the Sleepers Woke

by Arthur Leo Zagat

Truly a nasty piece of work. If you enjoy pre-WWII pulp sf, you learn to expect a certain amount of casual racism and some occasional xenophobia, but this is the first time I've seen quite such a blatant two-fer of villainy: both a sinister Oriental and a brutal, gorilla-like African. And naturally, they both lust after the nubile young white woman. The story culminates in an act of genocide, leaving a devastated Earth to be re-populated by a handful of WASPs. Might have some interest for a student of post-apocalyptic literature, or of the darker side of the 1930s American psyche, otherwise, don't waste your time.

Reviewed on 2013.10.24

The Space Pioneers

by Carey Rockwell

One of the weaker books in the series, the narrative follows the crew of the Polaris as they're given their most important assignment yet: shepherding an enormous fleet of spaceships sent out to colonize a new planet. Furthermore, once they arrive at Roald, they'll be responsible for supervising the construction of the colony.

The author maintains the tension fairly well up until they reach the new world, but once there, the story becomes little more than a standard horse opera, complete with corrupt town boss and dirty dealing over a fabulously rich deposit of gold ... er, I mean: uranium.

Mildly entertaining, but the other books in the series are better.

Reviewed on 2013.09.20

The Dark World

by Henry Kuttner

An outstanding science fantasy by Henry Kuttner and (probably) C. L. Moore, I think this stands with Vintage Season as some of their very best work.

Edward Bond, a pilot recovering from wounds received in the war, is drawn by the needfire to a parallel Earth, where the Sun is a swollen red giant, sorcery is real and strange mutations have made a reality of ancient legends. But is he truly Bond, or is he Ganelon, a cruel, arrogant warlock who with the rest of his Coven rules this "time-variant" of our world?

The witches who drew Bond/Ganelon back to the Dark World -- the beautiful scarlet witch Medea, and the yellow-eyed shape-shifter Matholch -- have very definite plans for him: with his leadership, they expect to exterminate the rebels who've lately risen to end the rule of the Coven.

And who -- according to Medea --played a nasty trick on Ganelon, by opening a door to our Earth and substituting him for his twin, the "real" Edward Bond, at the moment his plane crashed. To add insult to injury, his twin is now leading the rebels in their fight against the Coven.

Although the Coven has finally found and brought this man whom they believe to be Ganelon back to the Dark World, he has only the vaguest memories of his past life there. And to further complicate matters, there are plotters within the Coven, who in his present confusion would use him as a pawn for their own ends.

And who or what is the evil, enigmatic Llyr, the source of their power, waiting for him at Caer Llyr behind a Window into an even weirder space-time?

I've gone back and re-read this book every few years since I first encountered it as a teenager, at the end of the 60s. In fact, I still have that book, an old Ace paperback, the very same edition whose cover appears at the top of this page. Each time I find something new in it to admire, and to make me regret all over again Kuttner's death at such a tragically early age.

Reviewed on 2013.09.11

Talents, Incorporated

by Murray Leinster

Set in the same future milieu as Leinster\'s \"Med Service\" series as well as novels like \"Checkpoint Lambda\" and \"The Pirates of Zan\", \"Talents, Incorporated\" is a fast-moving, entertaining mashup of interstellar warfare and paranormal powers, the \"Talents\" of the book\'s title.

The peaceful, prosperous planet of Kandar is slated for conquest by the brutal dictatorship of Mekin. The Mekinese have already annexed twenty planets and built a massive war fleet. The Mekinese ultimatum gives Kandar the same choice they gave all their previous conquests: submit or die.

The Kandarian leaders are inclined to surrender immediately, to spare their people the horrors of having their cities leveled with H-bombs by the notoriously cruel and short-tempered Mekinese. Others believe their hopelessly outnumbered Navy should at least go down fighting the invaders, on the theory that it will teach the conquerors some respect for the Kandarians.

Bors, a captain in the Kandarian Navy, is a refugee from Tralee, which some years earlier faced the same choice and surrendered without a fight. He knows sending the fleet out to be annihilated will be a futile gesture, yet he\'s not going to run away from the hated Mekinese again. Not after what they did to his home.

But there\'s a third choice: take the help offered by the mysterious Morgan\'s Talents, Incorporated, a collection of misfits, neurotics and paranoids -- whose oddball paranormal abilities could turn the tide of the upcoming invasion. If Bors and the Kandarians can unlearn their natural skepticism in time to make use of those wild talents.

After all, who could believe a lonely romantic can infect people with her daydreams, or that a nondescript former clerk can predict the exact time an approaching enemy fleet will break out of overdrive?

If I have any criticism of this novel, it\'s that it was too short. I\'d have liked to see more of Morgan and his daughter Gwenlyn\'s part of the story, rather than having them only briefly appear at critical moments in Bors\' narrative.

All in all, though, this is a great read for a rainy afternoon.

Reviewed on 2013.08.31

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