H. E. Parmer

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H. E. Parmer

H. E. Parmer’s book reviews

A sudden change in weather patterns brings massive amounts of rainfall to the desert regions of Peru and Chile. Almost overnight, strange, primeval plants begin to carpet the landscape. An isolated oil-drilling operation is suddenly beset by a series of mysterious murders, committed by a diabolically clever killer who strikes without warning and disappears without a trace. All the victims were strangled, and some of them -- the ones with dozens of strange, shallow wounds on their heads and chests -- have been drained of all their blood ...

This tense and generally well-written monsters-from-the-past romp from the period between the two world wars is marred only by a casual racism, which was all-too-typical for the day.
Although I found the ending abrupt and somewhat unsatisfying, there's still plenty to recommend this novel. Boothby concocts some very striking scenes, and an eerie, morbid atmosphere pervades the work. I'm half-convinced this novel might have been an influence on both H. P. Lovecraft and Universal's first mummy film. Especially the latter: fans of the 1932 film will recognize several similar plot elements in "Pharos the Egyptian". Overall, an enjoyable read.
After reading this novel, I can better understand Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's love/hate relationship with his Sherlock Holmes character. If you're only familiar with those stories -- great fun that they are -- you have a real treat in store for you with Micah Clarke. Set during the ill-fated Monmouth Rebellion, Doyle's novel is full of color and splendid detail, with superb characters like the mercenary Decimus Saxon and the down-at-his-heels dandy, Sir Gervais. Although it starts off a bit slowly, the reader who sticks with it will find that Sir Arthur could write with great power and subtlety, showing a real flair for description of places and people, and incidents both moving and terrible.

Rafael Sabatini's Captain Blood -- which is set in the aftermath of the rebellion -- would make an interesting companion piece to this book. Highly recommended.
Despite some minor flaws, this was an interesting read. Borrowing slightly from the famous story of "The Four Feathers", it's a prototype of what's now the firmly-established genre of military sf. The novel is set in the 1960s or 70s, in which the Great War was followed by a long period of peace. A three-way global balance of power has evolved between Europe and the Americas, a Muslim confederation, and the Asian powers.

The International Police are the guardians of the European/American alliance, a bit like today's Interpol, with quasi-military powers and a mission which also includes espionage. On the eve of the West carrying out a popular plan to drastically cut its defenses, the head of the International Police gets wind of a plot by the Asians to launch a sneak attack, once the West has disarmed.

Although the method by which the International Police agents manage to smuggle some incriminating documents out of China in the first part of the book is quite improbable -- unless the Asian conspirators are complete idiots -- the action picks up shortly afterward and from then on the story clips along at a good pace.

One thing I found interesting is that once the West declares war on the perfidious orientals, the fighting takes place in China, and the battles, strategy and tactics are clearly based on the Russo-Japanese War, which took place a little over ten years previous to the publication of this story. With the addition of a new element: Air power.

If, like me, you're a sucker for any story with fightin' dirigibles and plenty of derring-do, this'll be right up your alley.
Very much a product of its Late Victorian era. A mad, Svengali-esque genius forms a secret society of bored and disaffected wealthy to provide him with the means to accomplish his most cherished ambition: Blowing up the Earth.

And he can do it, too, having discovered a sort of catalyst which releases the atomic energy contained in all matter. Which makes this one of the earliest, if not the earliest, fictional appearance of an atomic bomb, fully 17 years before Wells' "The Last War".

Throw in mind control, murder-by-telepathy, a doomed love affair and some oddball melodrama, and you have a fairly entertaining story.
Sequel to "Brigands of the Moon", this is another excellent space opera from Golden Age SF writer Ray Cummings. Invaders from the rogue planet Wandl, in league with a Martian turncoat and his sister, set in motion a nefarious plan to conquer the Solar System. Still a fun read after all these years.
This book had a tremendous impact on me, when I first checked it out from my elementary school library back in the mid-1960s. This was the one that brought home to me the realization that our civilization is a complex and fragile entity, totally dependent on its technology.

Almost fifty years later, I still found "The Year When Stardust Fell" a gripping read. Most of its defects come from the fact that it was targeted toward the (as publishers thought) exclusively male juvenile SF market of its time, so women appear in a strictly secondary role, making sandwiches for the boys, etc. Other than that, though, this is a fine example of the "Broken Earth" school of SF, with an unusually bleak theme for a juvie.

The story is set in a small college town out West, as winter is coming on and the splendor of a closely-approaching comet illuminates the night sky. As the Earth enters the comet's tail, the town finds itself cut off from the world and thrown back on its own meager resources, when civilization suddenly collapses.

In a brilliant plot device by Jones, the cometary dust contains a strange molecule which causes the metal surfaces it contaminates to bond together. So in a couple of weeks literally every machine on Earth with moving parts is cold-welded into a useless hunk of junk. As the cities dissolve into rampaging mobs of desperate, starving people, a small group of scientists in the college town are the only ones left to identify the cause of the breakdown and then tackle the seemingly hopeless task of finding a way to counteract it.

Plus they'll have to fight to survive cold, famine, sickness, well-armed marauders from the city, and betrayal by their neighbors. And to retain their humanity in the face of some awful realities. There are some surprisingly grim and realistic passages in this novel, especially during the street-fighting when the marauders overrun the town.

All in all, this is a worthwhile and still timely read from one of the greats of SF's Classic era.
Intriguing, suspenseful tale of aliens plotting to exterminate humankind, and the desperate plight of the young woman who discovers their plan on the eve of the invasion.

Too congenitally cowardly to risk their own precious hides, the aliens plan to use a group of humans whom they\'ve abducted and raised since birth, who\'ve been brainwashed into believing Earth people are monsters, to do their dirty work for them. These shock troops have also been genetically modified to allow them to tap into an alien power source which endows them with terrifying, superhuman abilities.

But this best-laid plan is about to go astray. Twenty years earlier, during the last rash of saucer sightings, the aliens somehow managed not to collect one of the mutant babies. A week before their planned invasion, they switch on the power to give their mutants a chance to practice with it, and an unsuspecting young Earth woman suddenly finds herself possessed of incredible powers.

With this gift also comes the knowledge of what the aliens have in store for the human race. Can she evade an assassin who can walk through walls and make himself invisible, who can read her thoughts and know where she is at any moment -- and somehow convince the authorities -- before it\'s too late to stop them?
Essentially two narratives in one, this follows the adventures of a crew of explorers as they navigate their submarine under the ice to the open water at the North Pole. (Don\'t ask.) Meanwhile, their employer and inventor of their craft, who\'s following their journey from his digs in New Jersey via telegraph -- the submarine\'s trailing a super-light, super-strong telegraphic cable -- inadvertently drills a 16-mile-deep hole into the Earth, leading to a surprising discovery.

Unfortunately, the submarine plot line is distinctly sub-Vernian, nor are the doings back in New Jersey all that interesting, either. There is an odd little note of pathos in the polar narrative, though, as the explorers encounter the last surviving whale.

Although this doesn\'t measure up to \"The Great War Syndicate\", it still has its low-key charms for admirers of Late Victorian SF.
Excellent nuts-and-bolts Space-Patrol-style adventure, as the newly-minted Lt. \'Rip\' Foster of the S.O.S. takes on his first command assignment: Piloting an asteroid of valuable thorium from the outer edges of the Belt to Earth orbit. As if that wasn\'t tricky enough, he\'ll also have to fend off repeated hijack attempts by a nefarious Connie space cruiser.

Besides a few minor details, very little about this story seems dated, other than the obvious substitution of \'Connies\' for \'Commies\' (with the usual 50s Cold War tropes) and the lack of female characters.

Definitely worth a read.
Frank Scozzari - Writing with Infectious Energy, Humor, Angst, and Sensitivity
FEATURED AUTHOR - Five-time Pushcart Prize nominee Frank Scozzari resides in Nipomo, a small town on the California central coast. His award-winning short stories have appeared in more than one-hundred literary magazines, including The Kenyon Review, Tampa Review, Eleven Eleven (Cal Arts), Pacific Review, Reed Magazine, Minetta Review (NYU), The Nassau Review, War Literature, and the Arts (U.S. Air Force Academy), The Berkeley Fiction Review, Ellipsis Magazine, South Dakota Review, Roanoke Review, Hawai'i… Read more