Monday, June 20, 2022

BLIZZARD by George Stone

Here's a disaster novel with an outstandingly simple idea: what if it didn't stop snowing? The entire eastern seaboard is about to find out, as the flakes just keep coming down, day after day, week after week, until the Boston/NYC/DC megalopolis is buried under TONS of fluffy, freezing DEATH! The Soviets have parked some satellites over the scene and a fleet of perfectly innocent fishing trawlers off shore, but are they just curious snoopers, or sinister appraisers of some sci-fi weather control scheme? It's making the boys in the State Department nervous, and someone's liable to do something reckless if we don't get to the bottom of this BLIZZARD and fast!

It's a breezy, cynical, slightly sleazy '70s thrill ride we're in for, with plenty of post-Watergate apathy and an entropic inevitability around the big blitz - of course this is happening, what should we expect? Author George Stone writes with a light touch around CIA assassinations and black budget skulduggery, and his characters are the standard neurotic '70s horn dogs. Thank God for that! This is a fine, fun time, starting with the gimmick cover where the actual title is inside on a spread. Imagine that kind of ballyhoo for a novel nowadays.

My only real complaint is that there isn't enough snow! We get a snowmobile chase through the flurried streets of NYC and our sexy journalista heroine cross country skies her way through DC, but otherwise we truly don't get enough of a sense of the BLIZZARD'S scale. It's all over before we know it, and while the pace and economy are appreciated we could have done with just a little bit more. Blizzard might not go over the top to a world beater but that's just fine, it's enough that it's competent and satisfying.

Corgi Books edition, 1979

For a very pleasant disaster thriller, BLIZZARD earns three snowflakes out of four:

Dell Publishing, 1979 (original pub. 1977)

Sunday, June 19, 2022


A double dose of T. Lobsang Rampa today, beginning with the Bantam Books edition of Rampa's occult guide from 1978 (original pub. 1970). "He survived torture, imprisonment, starvation," but not really.

And another Corgi edition of Living With The Lama from 1968, which plays coy with the concept of Rampa translating his cat's biography from "the Siamese Cat language" (original pub. 1964).

Cute logo!

Thursday, June 16, 2022

FIRESPILL by Ian Slater

The ocean is on fire. The ocean is on fire! Off the coast of British Columbia, two supertankers have collided, spilling a combined 600 million gallons of oil that ignites into an unstoppable inferno. As the conflagration rages, the rickety diesel trainer sub HMCS Swordfish is given an impossible task: rescue the Vice President of the United States of America, currently stranded on a 30 foot fishing trawler directly in the path of the FIRESPILL!

This is pure, sublime disaster fiction: our modern, interconnected world, which we're uniquely poised through our high technology to burn to ash. American and Soviet oil tankers, an out-of-order collision radar, a surly crew of post-Vietnam submariners and a cast of Presidents, Prime Ministers, and sheiks, all of us like children playing house with our finger on the button. It isn't just one broken link, one failed piece that brings destruction, it's the whole rotten edifice, the whole out-of-control monster we call civilization. It's inevitable, it's inescapable, it's the final judgment for guilty and innocent alike! There's no special dispensation for main characters, no plot-armor for heroes, no - these, then, are the damned.

It's a very Canadian disaster as well, dealing as it does with the nexus of superpowers and global trade, of stiff upper lip fait accompli decisions made to save face in the face of the unthinkable. A fierce debut novel from author Ian Slater, who would later find his niche writing a series of WWIII thrillers.

Armageddon on the brain ...

For its killing heat and a searing finish, Firespill earns four flames out of four:

McClelland & Stewart-Bantam Limited, 1977


Original 1973 paperback edition of Adi-Kent Thomas Jeffrey's smash hit The Bermuda Triangle, from regional publisher New Hope Publishing Co., of PA. Complete with an info spread on Ms. Adi-Kent, the "Mistress of the Macabre!"

Wednesday, June 15, 2022

THE BEAST by Walter J. Sheldon

Carnal hunger! Horny Bigfoot has a long pedigree going back to the original "Sasquatch" people of British Columbia, who were said to abduct mates from neighboring tribes, and as Bigfoot evolved into a subhuman apeman in the '50s he kept his lust for human women, as can be attested by a multitude of stories from Men's Adventure magazines. The fine folks at The Men's Adventure Library have collected an indispensable volume of classic stories about Bigfoot, Yeti, and other cryptozoological monsters:

These stories were an ephemeral connection in the web of Bigfoot mythology, mostly forgotten until The Men's Adventure Library came along. Bask in this small representative gallery of horny Bigfoot taken from their Cryptozoology Anthology:

Suffice to say, Bigfoot smut is part and parcel of Bigfoot at large, which brings us to today's novel. A mountain man finds something unbelievable in a wilderness cave: bones, massive bones. Bones too fresh to be prehistoric, too massive to be human. The only thing he can take along is a gigantic molar, but it's enough. It's proof! Meanwhile, one special Bigfoot is having a crisis of consciousness in a mountain valley. Her name is Self, and she's starting to realize that she thinks, therefore she is. She's also starting to get some ideas about all the funny business going around the Bigfoot family unit, as Big Male chooses mates without regard to how any of the Bigfoot ladies feel. The Old One and Giver of Milk both say she should accept this as the way things are, but Self is already groping her way down a whole new path of being.

Like I said, horny Bigfoot is nothing new, but it's rare to see lady Bigfoot's perspective. Self makes for an engaging character. The same can't be said for the humans - "pink skins" as Self and her family call them - who organize a trek to bag a live Bigfoot. Sheldon loses his grace with these characters and their paint-by-numbers trials, which is just too bad. There's a lot of promise in the setup but the big Bigfoot action never quite arrives. Really, it's not the humans' story at all, which is fine, we might as well just jettison their deadweight!

How embarrassing!

This was Walter J. Sheldon's only novel after a career of SF short stories in the '50s. Still, I'm glad I read it. For a fair cop at a horny Bigfoot thriller, The Beast earns two massive molars out of four:

A Fawcett Gold Medal Book, 1980

THE ADAM EXPERIMENT by Geoffrey Simmons

"When the first child is born in space the final horror will begin ..." Howzat do ya for high concept horror? We're updating the usual ET agenda away from nuts and bolts milestones such as our first atom blasts and radio waves pouring into space towards the most personal, biological subject possible. There must have been something floating on the cosmic winds around this time because Alien debuted contemporaneously, presenting the first and (in my opinion) final word on outer space body horror. To avoid suspense, I'll have you know The Adam Experiment isn't a patch on Alien's terror. It's more in line with the grubby imitators such as Inseminoid or Xtro, managing some effective moments here and there but largely limp and unfulfilling. The publishers also manage to typo the author's name right on the inside cover!

For starters, we're in the far flung year of 1991, with the mighty Space Lab V and its crew of 3,000 (!!!) orbiting 300,000 miles out from Earth. Near future SF settings are always tricky, and here Simmons stumbles a bit - why exactly is this gargantuan super sci-fi spaceship necessary for what's attempting to be a plausible, grounded thriller? We dance around the central conceit of a pregnancy in orbit for far too long as well, filling up time with dead end plotting which leads me to think that Simmons simply wasn't up to the task of fleshing out his own ideas. There's some nice suspense at the beginning, as a NASA tech receives notice from Pioneer 10 that its internals have been accessed - that's accessed, not destroyed or blown open, by something out there beyond the solar system ...  something that now has a map back to Earth.

Soon we're zipping up to Space Lab V with our main characters including Dr. Cortney Miles, "a skilled researcher whose long blonde hair and model's figure seemed more suited to a fashion show than a row of test tubes." Ha! We faff around for a while with experiments and scientific rivalries before we finally get down to business: the beast with two backs, in space! And here's where the terror, such as it is, begins. Something is coming, from out there. It's alien, unknowable, uncommunicative. And we are utterly helpless.

Spoilers here, for the better parts of the story: the aliens are huge, biological monstrosities, miniature planetoids covered in horrible eyes. Upon reaching Earth they gently deposit Pioneer 10 onto Space Lab V, with one major, frightening alteration: the woman on the plaque has a hole drilled through her womb! For whatever reason, they don't want us breeding beyond our planet. At the same time, they somehow are abducting hapless humans from our planet's surface and medically mutilating them! Here are some effective scares, as the aliens' POV is simultaneously sinister, logical, and totally opaque. The climax builds effectively as well, minus one little detail: the note "To be continued ..." What a rip!

Classy hardcover edition

Author Geoffrey Simmons is a bit of an odd duck. I'll let him speak for himself:
I am physician who is Board-certified in Internal Medicine and Disaster Medicine. I have a B.S. in Zoology and I have completed the course work for a Masters degree in Microbiology. I am also a Fellow with the Discovery Institute Center for Science and Culture. I have studied the theory of evolution for over forty years. For thirty of those years I was an ardent supporter of Darwinian ideas. I now, however, find the data supporting this theory scientifically untenable.

Our history strongly suggests we are here, at least in part, to re-create human facsimiles, called humanoids. One can readily see a constantly improving, convergence of designs over time. We are now copying many of those designs. This book braids human capabilities (designs) together, such as vision, ambulation, hearing, tasting and consciousness, using the two standout, contemporary explanations of our origins, i.e. Intelligent Design(ID) and the theory of evolution. This book shows that evolution, if it is to be believed, requires a lot of Intelligent Guidance (sometimes called the God of the Gaps). Just the changes needed to go from cold-blooded animals to warm-blooded animals would require several the entire texts of thick chemistry, biology and physics books. Or, from land mammals to sea mammals. Or walking animals to animals that control flying, landing and nesting in trees.
He never wrote a sequel to The Adam Experiment, though he managed a couple other thrillers before devoting himself to Creationist texts. For some creeping fear bogged down in pedestrian plotting, The Adam Experiment earns two starchilds out of four:

A Berkeley Medallion Book, 1979 (original pub. 1978)

Sunday, June 12, 2022

MYSTERY OF THE ANCIENTS by Eric and Craig Umland

We're going back to our roots with today's entry, some eminently readable nonsense courtesy the Umland brothers, riding on von Daniken's coattails with a special focus on the Maya and their irrefutable outer space connection! Rare enough for this genre, the Umland boys attest that the Maya peoples are still alive and well and living on planet Earth ... which makes it even odder when they pull out the usual unknowable "mysteries," as if we couldn't just pop down to the Yucatan and ask somebody about the Mayan moon bases! 

That's right, moon bases. The Umlands bring in some timely NASA coverup action - why did NASA and the USSR both put the kibosh on their lunar photography projects with only 10% of the moon covered? What were they afraid of finding, or what had they already found? And why won't the modern Maya admit their brothers are still up there, ready to invade at a moment's notice?

There's also death rays, Nazca lines, pyramid power and levitation, and assorted other super sciences which we've seen before many a time. But at least it's fast and fun, bringing to mind Warren Smith's beautiful pseudonymous piffle piece Gods, Demons, and UFO's. Much is made of Mayan sculpture and statuary supposedly portraying global peoples, which is the kind of gloriously loose pseudoscience reasoning that would take von Daniken twice as long to strangle out in one of his bloated books, with half the verve. The Umlands simply sum up von Daniken (and others like Robert Charroux) short and sweet.

This was the Umland brothers' only book, but it must have sold well because it received multiple editions. More silly details include flash frozen mammoths, von Daniken's fraudulent ancient Ecuadorean caves, Planet X blowing up into the asteroid belt, and the ancient Mayans spurning the wheel in favor of jet power! All of this in just 151 pages, plus a bibliography! It's mix and match mystery mongering at its best, shamelessly dumb, dense and dirty. Not bad, Eric and Craig!

Some other editions

Signet Books, 1975 (original pub. 1974)