Sandy Ferber

SANDY FERBER, on our staff since April 2014 (but hanging around here since November 2012), is a resident of Queens, New York and a product of that borough's finest institution of higher learning, Queens College. After a "misspent youth" of steady and incessant doses of Conan the Barbarian, Doc Savage and any and all forms of fantasy and sci-fi literature, Sandy has changed little in the four decades since. His favorite author these days is H. Rider Haggard, with whom he feels a strange kinship -- although Sandy is not English or a manored gentleman of the 19th century -- and his favorite reading matter consists of sci-fi, fantasy and horror... but of the period 1850-1960. Sandy is also a devoted buff of classic Hollywood and foreign films, and has reviewed extensively on the IMDb under the handle "ferbs54." Film Forum in Greenwich Village, indeed, is his second home, and Sandy at this time serves as the assistant vice president of the Louie Dumbrowski Fan Club....

The Time Stream: Will It Go Round In Circles?

The Time Stream by John Taine

After eight novels dealing with such venerable science fiction themes as lost races, weapons of superscience, the transmutation of elements, dinosaurs, devolution, crystalline life-forms and the creation of a superman, Scottish-American author John Taine finally tackled one of the most revered sci-fi tropes of them all, namely time travel, in his ninth novel, The Time Stream. Today, this book comes freighted with a double-edged reputation, as it is said to be the author’s strangest novel of the 16 he wrote between 1924 and ’54, as well as his finest; an irresistible combination for those who are game. The novel was released just two months after Taine’s Seeds of Life had appeared complete in the October... Read More

Seeds of Life: High Tension

Seeds of Life by John Taine

In the 1956 sci-fi “B movie” Indestructible Man, hardened criminal Butcher Benton, played by the always wonderful Lon Chaney, Jr., is put to death by the state, but is later revivified by a mad scientist using 300,000 volts of electricity. Benton becomes not only possessed of superhuman strength but is also, as events show, impervious to bullets. But if a certain novel of 25 years earlier can be believed, this was not the first time that a human being was subjected to a massive dose of juice, and with astonishing results. The book in question was Scottish-American author John Taine’s ninth novel, Seeds of Life, which features not only one scientist suffering from the side effects of a 2 million-volt exposure, but anot... Read More

White Lily: Chinese Takeout

White Lily by John Taine

For fans of mathematician Eric Temple Bell, who wrote science fiction under the pen name John Taine, the acquisition of titles in this modern era can be somewhat problematic: Of the author’s 16 sci-fi books, only three of them are currently in print. This reader had previously experienced Taine’s first novel, The Purple Sapphire (1924), as well as his fifth, The Greatest Adventure (’29), had hugely enjoyed them both and wanted to read more … lots more. I had also managed to lay my hands on Taine’s final novel, the marvelous... Read More

The Radio Planet: Boomalayla, you’ve got me on my knees

The Radio Planet by Ralph Milne Farley

THE RADIO MAN trilogy, by Massachusetts-born author Ralph Milne Farley, was a series that I discovered quite by accident. I had heard of neither the three novels nor their author before finding the first book, The Radio Man (1924), in a highly collectible 1950 Avon paperback edition, at the Greenwich Village Antiquarian Book Fair a few years back. This first novel introduced readers to radio engineer Myles Cabot, who had accidentally transported himself to the planet Venus and helped the winged and antenna-sporting Cupian humanoids there to overthrow their antlike Formian oppressors. I’d enjoyed this first installment so much that I later expressed a desire to read Book 2, a wish that was gran... Read More

Odd John: Lo And Behold!

Odd John by Olaf Stapledon

Just recently, I had some words to say regarding Olaf Stapledon’s superlative novel entitled Sirius (1944), which featured as its protagonist a German shepherd/border collie mix who, thanks to his owner’s experiments in genetic engineering and hormonal supplements, winds up a canine with the mentality of a human genius. It was the first book that I had experienced by this British author, and I loved it so much that I immediately began reading an earlier Stapledon novel, Odd John (1935), which can happily be found in the same 1972 Dover edition as the 1944 work.

As it turns out, the two make for a supremely well-matched double feature, as Odd John also deals with the subje... Read More

Sirius: The brainiest canine in all literature

Sirius by Olaf Stapledon

For all those folks out there who hold conversations with their pet dog and know for certain that Fido/Fifi understands every word; for those who have gotten a tad “verklempt” at the conclusion of such novels as The Call of the Wild and Old Yeller; for people who believe that canines just cannot get any smarter than Lassie, Rin Tin Tin or Benji, all of whom starred in innumerable motion pictures; and, well, really, for anybody with a soft spot in his or her heart for man’s best friend, have I got a book for you! That book is none other than British philosopher/author Olaf Stapledon’s Sirius, which, as I write these words, is in the running to win a Retro Hugo Award for Best Novel, 1944. Originally released as a hardcover volume by the English pu... Read More

Away and Beyond: Thanks again, Mr. Miller!

Away and Beyond by A.E. van Vogt

As I believe I have mentioned elsewhere, it was one of my high school English teachers, Mr. Miller, who first got me interested in literary sci-fi. This was back in the late ‘60s, when my high school was hip enough to actually offer a course in science fiction, taught by Mr. Miller; a very popular course, need I even mention? One of the earliest books that Miller required us to read, as I recall, was A.E. (Alfred Elton) van Vogt’s 1946 novel Slan, which had originally appeared as a four-part serial in the Sept. - Dec. 1940 issues of John W. Campbell’s Astounding Science... Read More

King Kull: The Sword & Sorcery genre begins here

King Kull by Robert E. Howard & Lin Carter

There’s a reason why I never lend out books anymore, even to my closest friends; namely, the fact that when I used to loan them out, I never got them back in the same good condition, or, even worse, never got them back at all. Cases in point: three paperbacks from one of my old favorite writers, Texas-born Robert E. Howard. Back in the mid-‘60s, Lancer Books released all of Howard’s Conan the Barbarian stories in a now-classic series of 12 paperbacks, as well as a beautiful paperback of another legendary Howard character, King Kull. I owned all 13 of those wonderful volumes, and made the big mistake of lending the first two Conan books out (both featuring gorgeous cover artwork by Frank Frazetta), as well as the Kull (feat... Read More

Lysbeth: Dutch Treat

Lysbeth by H. Rider Haggard

In the summer of 1897, English author H. Rider Haggard took a short vacation in Holland, and just as his winter holiday to the Holy Land in 1900 would inspire him to pen no fewer than three works — the nonfiction book A Winter Pilgrimage (1901), Pearl-Maiden (1903) and The Brethren (1904) — this sojourn to the land of the Dutch would also bear literary fruit. Thus, in 1899, Haggard began writing his new novel, provisionally entitled The Secret of Sword Silence. By the time this tale of the Dutch first appeared in The Graphic (a British weekly newspaper, in existence from 1869 to 1932, that dealt with news items of the day, as well as the arts, s... Read More

The Clockwork Man: Sci-Fi’s first cyborg novel

The Clockwork Man by E.V. Odle

Just recently, I had some words to say about an English dystopian novel from 1920, The People of the Ruins by Edward Shanks. This book had been brought back into print in 2012 by HiLo Books as part of its wonderful Radium Age Science Fiction Series, the goal of which was to unearth neglected works from the period 1904 - 1933 for the modern generation. Now, I am here to tell you of another novel from this same series that I have just enjoyed. The book in question is The Clockwork Man, which was the creation of another British author, E.V. (Edwin Vincent) Odle. This novel was or... Read More

The People of the Ruins: A simply marvelous dystopian novel

The People of the Ruins by Edward Shanks

The publisher known as HiLo Books had a wonderful thing going back in 2012 with its Radium Age Science Fiction Series, the mission of which was to bring back into print the neglected works from the period 1904 - 1933. This reader had previously enjoyed several of the titles in this series via volumes from other publishers – novels such as Jack London’s The Scarlet Plague (1912), William Hope Hodgson’s The Night Land (1912), Read More

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

Inland Deep: Tooker times two

Inland Deep by Richard Tooker

Of the nine books that I have read over the last year or so from Armchair Fiction’s current Lost World/Lost Race series, which runs to 24 volumes, no fewer than three of them have involved the discoveries of hitherto unknown civilizations far beneath the Earth’s surface. In Rex Stout’s truly thrilling Under the Andes (1914), three unfortunate Americans go through a hellacious experience at the hands of a lost race of Incas beneath the mountains of Peru. In S. P. Meek’s The Drums of Tapajos (1930), a quartet of American adventurers discovers the descendants of both the 10 Lost... Read More

Two Thousand Miles Below: The Gor hole and the blowhole

Two Thousand Miles Below by Charles W. Diffin

In November 1951, the first feature film based on a DC Comics superhero was released. That film, Superman and the Mole Men, is fondly remembered today, especially since it was later transformed into the two-part episode that aired near the end of the first season of TV’s Adventures of Superman, and shown on television under the title “The Unknown People.” In this film, Clark Kent and Lois Lane travel to the small town of Silsby, TX, to cover a story about the world’s deepest oil rig … a story that becomes even more interesting when denizens from deep below the Earth emerge from that borehole and cause panic among the populace. However, if a certain novel from almost 20 years earlier is to be believed, this was not the first time that such an operation had disturbed our underground neighbors. The novel in question is Two Thousand Miles Below, which... Read More

Phalanxes of Atlans: A well-paired yet unconvincing double feature

Phalanxes of Atlans by F. Van Wyck Mason

A little while ago. I had some words to say about Capt. S.P. Meek’s 1930 novel The Drums of Tapajos, in which a band of American explorers discovers a lost civilization in the jungle wilderness of Brazil, comprised of the cultured and scientifically advanced remnants of the 10 Lost Tribes and Troy, uneasily coexisting with the barbaric remnants of Atlantis. The book was done in by a lack of convincing detail and exciting set pieces, as I reported. Well, now I am here to tell you of my most recent read, another offering from Armchair Fiction’s Lost World/Lost Race series; a book that suffers from one of the same problems that plague The Drums of Tapajos, even though its story line has been inverted. In this c... Read More

The Drums of Tapajos: A middling lost-world adventure

The Drums of Tapajos by S. P. Meek

As you may have noticed, over the past six months I have been dipping into Armchair Fiction’s current Lost World/Lost Race series of 24 novels, and with mixed results. One thing I have observed is that the best of this bunch — such as Frank Aubrey’s The King of the Dead (1903), Rex Stout’s Under the Andes (1914), John Taine’s The Purple Sapphire (1924) and Read More

The World of the Giant Ants: Bugging out

The World of the Giant Ants by A. Hyatt Verrill

In two novels that I recently read, Ralph Milne Farley’s The Radio Man (1924) and its sequel, The Radio Beasts (1925), engineer Myles Cabot accidentally transports himself to Venus and discovers a society of enormous and intelligent ants, the so-called Formians. But, it would seem, if a certain book of 1928 is to be believed, Cabot did not have to leave planet Earth to discover such gigantic and civilized creatures. The book in question is The World of the Giant Ants, which initially appeared in the p... Read More

The Nightmare and Other Tales of Dark Fantasy: A very fine collection

The Nightmare and Other Tales of Dark Fantasy by Francis Stevens

Up until recently, Minneapolis-born author Francis Stevens had been a very solid 3 for 3 with this reader. Her first novel, 1918’s The Citadel of Fear, had proved to be a mindblower, dealing as it did with the lost city of Tlapallan, nightmarish creatures, and battling Aztec gods. Her second novel, 1919’s The Heads of Cerberus, was a dystopian affair set in a totalitarian Philadelphia and is one of the first sci-fi offerings to feature a parallel time track. And in Stevens’ fourth novel, 1920’s Read More

Goke, Body Snatcher From Hell: How do you say “fun stuff” in Japanese?

Goke, Body Snatcher From Hell directed by Hajime Sato

On the first day of August 1968, Toho Studios in Japan released a film that would go on to be embraced by generations of monster-movie lovers around the world. That film was Destroy All Monsters, and was of particular interest to "kaiju-eiga" fans around the world by dint of the fact that it featured no fewer than 11 famous creatures in one mad monster mash-up, including Godzilla, Mothra, Rodan and King Ghidorah. Destroy All Monsters has today been accorded the Criterion DVD treatment, a recognized imprimatur of quality. But less than two weeks later, on August 14th, 1968, another Japanese film would be released that — despite the fact that it is more serious and more artfully produced than the Toho movie — has seemingly sunk into relative obscurity, even though it, too, has recently been given the Criterion ... Read More

The King of Elfland’s Daughter: Haunting and Lyrical

Reposting to include Sandy's new review.

The King of Elfland's Daughter by Lord Dunsany

After reading about Lord Dunsany's The King of Elfland's Daughter I went in search of it and found it at my university library. Reading it was quite a different experience for me, but people who aren't prepared for the style of writing like I was might be disappointed, confused or scorning of the slow, dream-like pace, archetype characters and poetical language. This might be especially true of fans of typical fantasy genre books (authors such as David Eddings or Terry Brooks) where a fantasy universe is deemed to be good only if it has a solid backing and an exhaustive array of facts and figures to add realism to the stories. Lord Dunsa... Read More

The Uninvited: Book vs. film

The Uninvited by Dorothy Macardle

Although 1944’s The Uninvited has long been one of this viewer’s favorite spooky movies of that great filmmaking decade, it wasn’t until fairly recently that I learned of the special place it holds in cinema history. The film, apparently, was the very first Hollywood product to treat ghosts seriously. Here, at last, the specters on display were not hoaxes, not fakes, and not played for laughs. Rather, they were completely legit; supernatural survivors with unfinished business here on the material plane. Featuring first-rate acting by a cast of pros, impressive direction by Lewis Allen in his first feature-length film, a theme song that would go on to become a classic, remarkable (for its time) special FX, and stunning, noirish and Oscar-nominated cinematography by the great Charles Lang, the picture is a very solid entertainment, indeed, if perhaps a tad tame for today’s horror buffs … especia... Read More

Uncanny Stories: Not withholding affection

Uncanny Stories by May Sinclair

This is not the first time that I am going to say some nice things about London-based publisher Wordsworth Editions, and, more particularly, its Tales of Mystery & the Supernatural division, which, over the years, has brought forth dozens of reasonably priced books by many well-known writers, as well as many lesser-knowns. Previously, I have written here of two Wordsworth volumes by some (to me) known authors, Ambrose Bierce (Terror By Night – Classic Ghost & Horror Stories) and Robert E. Howard ( Read More

Aylmer Vance: Ghost-Seer: 8 marvelous tales featuring an Edwardian ghost buster

Aylmer Vance: Ghost-Seer by Alice & Claude Askew

As I have said elsewhere, this reader has long been a sucker for the Victorian/Edwardian ghost hunter. Previously, I had enjoyed the exploits of Algernon Blackwood’s John Silence — who had tackled, in the author’s five-story collection of 1908, a haunted house, a French town peopled by shape shifters, an Egyptian fire elemental, devil worship, and a nontraditional werewolf — and William Hope Hodgson’s Thomas Carnacki, who had gone up against, in the six-story collection of 1913 that was expanded to nine stories 35 years later, haunted abodes, a ghostly horse, weird noises, spectral daggers and maggots, a haunted ship, and a soul-sucking swine mon... Read More

The Moon Terror: A wonderfully pulpish double feature

The Moon Terror by A.G. Birch

During my first, recent visit to London, besides doing all the typical touristy things, I also happened to visit several of the very fine bookstores that the great city currently offers. The used-book stores on Charing Cross Road were especially interesting to me, but I also stopped in at Forbidden Planet (so much better than the Forbidden Planet store here in NYC), the mammoth independent bookstore called Foyles, and, of course, the Waterstones on Piccadilly. It was at this gigantic bookstore, supposedly the largest in Europe, where I found the volume in question, The Moon Terror, by A.G. Birch. It was not a hard sell for me; as soon as I read that this short novel originally appeared in the pages of Weird Tales magazine, I purchased it on the spot. As it turns out, this novel made its debut in the May and June 1923 issues of “The Unique Magazine”; th... Read More

The Monster and the Girl: A flabbergasting mix of film genres

Happy Halloween!

The Monster and the Girl directed by Stuart Heisler

I suppose that I owe director John Landis a huge debt of thanks, as he was the one who first introduced me to the movie in question, The Monster and the Girl ... a film that I may very well have never heard of, without his knowledgeable guidance. As the TCM guest programmer one evening recently, Landis — himself the director of one of the truly great modern-day horror films, An American Werewolf in London — told host Ben Mankiewicz that he had selected the 1941 film because he found it to be totally unique, and indeed, a viewing of the picture will surely leave the viewer thinking that this highly effective little "B picture" really is a sui generis experience. Conflating as it does the gangster film, the courtroom drama, and the mad scientist movie, The Monster and the Girl manages to surprise at every turn, and as Mankiewicz noted, the ac... Read More

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