Saturday, November 8, 2008

Two Complete Science Adventure Books #3

I decided to read the Neil R Jones Story first, since a readers letter in a subsequent issue rated that as the better story. I did so doubtfully since I considered Jones to be a second or third rate SF author. The blurb reads,” Earth was a fortress, a Citadel in Space, ruled by swaggering Space Pirates and the evil cult of Durna Rangue. Death guarded its ray-shrouded surface…Death waited for Brian Trent and his faithful Red Swordsman as they sought to rescue the ravishing Marcia from Earth’s palatial pirate harems.

The story reads like it was written in the 1930’s, with most of the moons in the solar system being warm

And having breathable atmospheres. I suspect that Jones dug up an old manuscript that he had failed to sell in the 1930’s. Various “rays” accomplish different purposes. I would not be surprised if somewhere in one of the old SF stories there is a “ray” that will brush your teeth.

I included one of the rupture ads. After all, what pulp magazine would be complete without a rupture ad?

The weapons of choice were atom pistols and swords. In a way the story was prescient. After all, aren’t all pistols in the modern age made of atoms?

The evil Durna Rangue made all sorts of monsters to serve their purpose such as insect-human hybrids and dwarves that were full sized human beings shrunk down by a process of “atom compression.” “They are tremendously strong, for the cult has grafted into them the glands from the giant Martian ants.” Yes sir. The atom is a many splendored thing.

“Against the far wall, standing like statues, were such startling creatures as they had never seen before. They were men, yet their heads were those of insects, with large, strong mandibles. “The insect men-hybrids.” Spoke Brian in a low voice as others gazed in astonishment. “Another successful experiment of the cult.””

“ As if the arrival of Ellend had been the signal-gong, the announcers told of the initial event, the death ray joust. A strange contraption 50 feet square was set up, consisting of a platform surrounded by gleaming metal spikes low and close set. Two men were led into the center of this, armed with long poles ending in globes, seemingly fashioned of soft, light material.
“A joust,” Brian conjectured.” That means pushing each other over with those things, but why?”
As if in immediate answer to his question, there sprang up from the spikes surrounding the platform a tight-set grill of transparent blue columns.
“The ray curtain of the cult!” exclaimed Sunset. “remember in Chicog?”
Brian nodded grimly. “I get the idea now.”

“He got me! I felt it hit me!”
“”You’re all right,” argued Sunset. “He couldn’t have hit you.”
“But I felt it hit me!”
“Say, Ory, I’ve got it! Remember your wart? Those rods can’t hurt you! You’ve had a radium treatment!”
“By gosh, Sunset----that is it!”

By the end of the story, boy gets girl and everyone else gets killed.

This story would have been just fine in the 1930’s but by 1951 it was more than a bit dated. Still, it beats the crappy lead “story” I just read in the December 2008 Isaac Asimov’s SF Magazine. Cover art was by the great Allen Anderson. The story is listed in the ISFDB database but has never been republished.The next story Sword of Xota, by James Blish, is not even listed in the database. It is a delightful piece of space opera in which Tipton Bond defeats the Warriors of Day and is by far the better story of the two. it is a pity that the story has been forgotten and is accessible only to the few who possess copies of this magazine.

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