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 Stars, Like Dust: Asimov’s least favorite of all his novels still offers much

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The Stars, Like Dust by Isaac Asimov

Isaac Asimov’s very first novel, Pebble in the Sky (1950), was the opening salvo in what would later be known as his GALACTIC EMPIRE trilogy, and was set some 50,000 years in Earth’s future. It may surprise some potential readers to learn, then, that book 2 in the series, The Stars, Like Dust (the use of a comma after the word “Stars” is not present anywhere in my 1963 Lancer paperback, but Asimov’s later autobiography, I. Asimov, does present the book title with the comma, so don’t ask me!), takes place a mere 10,000 years in the future, or a good 40,000 years prior to the events in book 1!... Read More

Indestructible Man: 300,000 volts of fun

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Indestructible Man directed by Jack Pollexfen

Oh, what a wacky film experience I had over the weekend: the 1956 Lon Chaney, Jr. outing Indestructible Man! This movie was originally shown as part of a double feature for the kiddies back when, paired with one of my favorite sci-fi shlock adventures ever, World Without End, for one truly mind-boggling afternoon at the movies. In the film in question, Chaney plays a criminal named Butcher Benton, who, after a botched robbery, has been sentenced to the gas chamber. He is indeed put to death, but soon after, his body is sold to a scientist (Robert Shayne, who most viewers will remember from his role of Inspector Henderson on TV's Adventures of Superman, and whose work I recently enjoyed in the 1953 film The Neanderthal Man) who is doing experiments regarding a cancer cure. Read More

Pebble In The Sky: One down, 500 to go…

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Pebble In The Sky by Isaac Asimov

In a now-famous interview, sci-fi legend Isaac Asimov once revealed how he avoided getting stuck with writer’s block. The hugely prodigious author would often be working at four or five books at the same time, with five typewriters arrayed side by side, and when he would get inextricably bogged down with one book, he’d simply move to the neighboring typewriter, and recommence work on that one! Thus, one can almost understand how it was possible for Asimov — who claimed, in his later years, to do nothing but write, eat, sleep, and talk to his wife — to rack up the almost superhuman tally of just over 500 books written before his death in 1992, in every subject category of the Dewey Decimal System (does anybod... Read More

Mad About Men: Miranda returns for another fish-out-of-water adventure

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Mad About Men directed by Ralph Thomas

When we last saw the mermaid Miranda, in the 1948 British fantasy film that bears her name, she was sitting on a rock in the middle of the ocean, bearing on her lap an infant merbaby, the sight of which was apparently meant to stun and amuse the viewer. Although the charming Miranda had almost caused the breakup of no fewer than three relationships in that film, she had not been intimate with any of the men involved (and really, how COULD she be?), and so ... just whose baby was this? In hindsight, the baby was apparently hers as the result of a previous underwater fling, casting a whole new light on just why the frisky mermaid wanted one above-water adventure before becoming a mermom herself. Or perhaps she was merely merbabysitting in that final scene?

I suppose that we will never know for sure, as the... Read More

Miranda: An absolutely charming fish-out-of-water tale

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Miranda directed by Ken Annakin

Back in the early '60s, when I was a very young lad, there were two television programs that held a great fascination for my young mind. One was the part live/part animated kiddie show Diver Dan, which featured the undersea adventures of the titular hero, and showcased one very beautiful blonde mermaid, called Miss Minerva. The other program was one that I have a feeling not too many remember, for the simple reason that it only lasted 13 episodes in the fall of '63. That show was simply called Glynis, and featured the exploits of its star, Welsh actress Glynis Johns, playing a kooky mystery writer. As a child, I was fascinated by this lovely heroine, with her cracked and husky voice (Glynis' voice has always been as distinctive, in its own way, as that of Jean Arthur, Bette Davis or Katharine Hepburn), and my liking of her only increased over the decades, as I got to see... Read More

Doomstar: Hamilton goes out like a pro

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Doomstar by Edmond Hamilton

As I have mentioned elsewhere, sci-fi pulpmaster Edmond Hamilton, during the early decades of his career, destroyed so many planets in his stories that he managed to acquire for himself the nickname “World Wrecker.” But in his final novel, Doomstar, the destruction of a mere planet seemed to be small potatoes for the Ohio-born author, and nothing less than the death — or, in this case, the poisoning — of a solar body would suffice! Doomstar was initially released as a 50-cent Belmont paperback in January 1966, almost 40 years after Hamilton’s first story had appeared in Weird Tales magazine. (I was fortunate enough to acquire the 1969 Belmont paperback, also with a cover price of 50 cents.) Hamilton was 62 when he... Read More

City At World’s End: Going Vegan

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City At World’s End by Edmond Hamilton

Written near the dawn of the Cold War era and soon after mankind first became aware of the fearful possibilities of the atom bomb, City at World’s End yet remains both highly readable and grippingly entertaining today, more than 65 years after its initial appearance. Edmond Hamilton’s book initially as a “complete novel” in the July 1950 issue of the pulp magazine Starling Stories, was released in hardcover the following year, and, in ’53, appeared again in the pages of Galaxy. (Personally, I just finished reading the 35-cent Crest Giant paperback from 1957.) Hamilton, who was already 46 when he wrote this tale, had been a published author since 1926, and already had countless hundreds of short stories, novellas and n... Read More

The Return of Doctor X: Citizen Quesne

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The Return of Doctor X directed by Vincent Sherman

As a result of his breakthrough role as Duke Mantee in the 1936 gem The Petrified Forest, Humphrey Bogart made no fewer than 25 films for Warner Brothers over the course of the next four years: five in 1936, seven (!) in 1937, six in 1938 and another whopping seven in 1939! Talk about paying your dues! For the most part, Bogart was second or even third billed — and even lower — in these films, typically playing gangsters but also some very unlikely roles, and these from the man who, just a few years later still, would be the highest paid actor in Hollywood. But of all the unusual roles that the great Bogart ever essayed, it is the part of Marshall Quesne (pronounced "Kane") in The Return of Doctor X that just might be his strangest. Bogart would go on to claim that this film, along with 1938's Swing Your Lady, was his absolute wor... Read More

Return of the Fly: “The Thriller-Chiller That Will Really Bug You”…

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Return of the Fly directed by Edward Bernds

Sometimes, it's just NOT a good idea to continue on with your father's business. Take Philippe Delambre, for instance, in the 1959 sequel to the previous year's The Fly, the perhaps inevitably titled Return of the Fly. When we last saw Delambre, he was a little boy living near Montreal, aggrieved over his scientist father's death, a man who had been turned into a humanoid with the head of a giant fly, AND a little insect with the head of a man! When the sequel picks up, it is a good 10 years later at least, and Delambre is a young adult, attending his mother's funeral in the pouring rain along with his uncle, Francois (Vincent Price, the only actor returning from the original, and who, that same year, starred in one of this viewer's all-time favorite horror films, The Ti... Read More

The Phantom From 10,000 Leagues: More dangerous than your average sea cucumber

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The Phantom From 10,000 Leagues directed by Dan Milner

Although I really do try to keep an objective mind when it comes to my cinematic adventures, I must confess that The Phantom From 10,000 Leagues (1955) already had one strike against it, personally speaking, as I sat down to peruse it recently. I mean, how dare this picture rip off the title of one of my favorite films of all time, The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms (1953)? The fact that the esteemed Maltin's Movie Guide gives Phantom its lowest BOMB rating did not bother me overmuch (the editors there are a notoriously grumpy bunch as regards genre fare), but an attempt to overtly copy one of the greatest monster movies ever made ... not forgivable! Anyway, as it turns out, despite the negative word of mouth and blatant title riffing of a beloved classic (actually, that title is almo... Read More

The Beast of Hollow Mountain: Bring the tequila

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The Beast of Hollow Mountain directed by Edward Nassour & Ismael Rodriguez

King Kong creator Willis O'Brien had a great idea for a film in the mid-'50s: a hybrid Western and giant monster outing that would showcase the best of both genres. Working from O'Brien's story line, the film was ultimately made, with a script by Robert Hill (who would go on to pen such wonders as She Gods of Shark Reef and Sex Kittens Go to College), a co-production between the U.S. and Mexico, and the result, the 1956 wonder entitled The Beast of Hollow Mountain, has been pleasing generations of viewers ever since. Unfortunately, O'Brien himself, for some strange reason, did NOT work on the special FX for this film, as he had done on The Lost World (1925), King Kong (1933), Son of Kong (also 1933), and Mighty Joe Young (1949; the film for which O'Brien won an O... Read More

Return to the Stars: In H’Harn’s way

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Return to the Stars by Edmond Hamilton

For those readers who thrilled to the exploits of 20th century Earthman John Gordon in the futuristic galaxy of 202,115, in Edmond Hamilton’s first novel, The Star Kings (1949), the wait to find out just what might happen next would prove to be a long one. Ultimately, though, their patience was rewarded with Hamilton’s much-belated sequel, Return to the Stars (1969). Unlike the original novel, which was released all at once and comprised the entire 9/47 issue of Amazing Stories magazine, the sequel was what is known as a fix-up novel, having as its provenance four separate stories that Hamilton skillfully cobbled together into one cohesive... Read More

Reptilicus: Blood and tundra

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Reptilicus directed by Sidney Pink

I never got to see the 1961 monster outing Reptilicus when I was a child, and so have nothing in the way of nostalgic attachment as regards the film. Thus, when I watched the movie for the first time a few nights back, it was with the cold, hard objectivity of an aging baby-boomer adult. The result was an entertaining evening, but one that would have been infinitely more enjoyable had I been watching within the pleasant aura of a fondly remembered youth. Reptilicus is today perhaps best known as the only giant monster movie to have ever come out of Denmark, of all places. As it turns out, the picture is decidedly inferior to the giant monster movies that had been all the rage ever since the U.S. released the granddaddy of all such films, The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms (one of this viewer's all-time faves) in 1953, and Japan released the seminal Gojira... Read More

Chocky: Wyndham goes out on a high note

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Chocky by John Wyndham

Following the publication of 1960’s Trouble With Lichen, fans of the hugely popular English sci-fi writer John Wyndham would have to wait a good solid eight years for his next novel to be released. During that time, the author limited himself to the shorter form, coming out with 10 stories. One of those short stories was “Chocky,” which initially appeared in the March ’63 issue of the legendary American magazine Amazing Stories, which had been started by author and editor Hugo Gernsback back in 1926. Wyndham later expanded “Chocky,” and the result was his final book to be published before his untimely passing. As had so many other of the author’s previous works, the no... Read More

Trouble with Lichen: Complications of eternal youth

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Reposting to include Sandy's new review.

Trouble with Lichen by John Wyndham

Published in 1960, John Wyndham’s Trouble with Lichen tells the story of Diana Brackley, a revolutionary, a feminist, and a scientist.

Diana is considered odd because although she is attractive, she does not want to marry. Instead, she is dedicated to her career in the lab, and it is there that she makes her amazing discovery: a type of lichen that slows the aging process. Diana decides to use the lichen to empower women, and she sets up a beauty clinic that caters to rich and influential women (more ... Read More

The Chrysalids: Forbidden post-apocalyptic telepaths

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Reposting to include Sandy's new review.

The Chrysalids by John Wynhdam

It’s no wonder that David dreams of a distant and wondrous city at night: life in the post-apocalyptic settlement, Waknuk, is difficult. Waknuk’s people are descended from the survivors of the Tribulation, which everyone knows was sent by God to punish the Old People. Though David and his community are lucky to have any land to live on, they must always guard against Deviations — in their crops, in their livestock, and in their children.

Deviations are not made in God’s True Image. Children that, say, have six toes, have the Devil in them, so they are either destroyed or else sent to the Fringes after they are sterilized. Though these exiles may later return as raiders, life in Waknuk is — if not always peaceful — still much better than life in the Badlands.

David Str... Read More

The Mindwarpers: An oddball addition to Russell’s canon

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The Mindwarpers by Eric Frank Russell

For his ninth novel out of what would ultimately run to 10, English sci-fi author Eric Frank Russell pulled a bit of a switcheroo on his readers. The book in question was initially released in the U.K. in 1964 in a hardcover edition by British publishing house Dennis Dobson, sporting the title With a Strange Device. A year later, it was released here in the U.S. as a 50-cent Lancer paperback (the edition that I was fortunate enough to acquire at Brooklyn bookstore extraordinaire Singularity), as its author was turning 60, but with a new and perhaps catchier title: The Mindwarpers. Written at the height of Cold War tensions, and at the peak of the world... Read More

The Great Explosion: One of the funniest sci-fi novels that I’ve ever read

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The Great Explosion by Eric Frank Russell

In his 1955 collection entitled Men, Martians and Machines, English sci-fi author Eric Frank Russell told, via one short story and three novellas, some of the adventures of a starship crew that strongly suggested nothing less than a proto-Star Trek ensemble. The collection featured visits to three very different sorts of planets, in which the men, Martians, and robot of the starship Marathon came up against a world of mechanical devices; a world of green-skinned inhabitants, lethal trees and giant snakes; and a world of ropy creatures with the power to induce hypnotic hallucinations. Apparently, Russell liked the episodic nature of the collecti... Read More

Wasp: Phase 9 From Outer Space

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Wasp by Eric Frank Russell

There seems to exist some very real confusion as to just what English sci-fi author Eric Frank Russell did during WW2. Some sources would have us believe that he worked for British Intelligence during the war years, while others claim that he was merely an RAF radio operator and mechanic. Whatever the real story may be, the writer put his war experiences to good use over a decade later, when he wrote what would be his sixth novel out of an eventual 10, Wasp. Initially released as an Avalon Books hardcover in November 1957, when Russell was already 52, Wasp has been called one of its author’s finest works. This reader was fortunate enough to acquire the 35-cent Perm... Read More

All Flesh Is Grass: Flower power

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All Flesh Is Grass by Clifford D. Simak

In the 1966 3-D movie The Bubble, later rereleased as Fantastic Invasion of Planet Earth, an impenetrable and transparent dome of unknown origin encases a small American town, trapping its residents inside. Forty-three years later, in Stephen King’s doorstop best seller of 2009, Under the Dome, another American town, Chester’s Mill, is similarly and mysteriously ensnared. Beating both these projects to the punch, however, and a possible inspiration for both of them, was Clifford D. Simak’s 10th novel, All Flesh Is Grass. The book... Read More

They Walked Like Men: Simak bowls a strike

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They Walked Like Men by Clifford D. Simak

In the history of the science fiction novel, there have been any number of depictions of invaders from other worlds trying to conquer good ol’ Mother Earth, be it with brute force and death rays (as in H.G. Wells’ seminal novel of 1898, The War of the Worlds) or more insidiously (as in Jack Finney’s 1955 masterpiece of paranoia, Invasion of the Body Snatchers). But nowhere, I suspect, has the reader ever been presented with a takeover attempt akin to the one in Read More

Time Is the Simplest Thing: Fast-paced and imaginative, with an important message

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Time Is the Simplest Thing by Clifford D. Simak

Written s(i)mack-dab in the middle of the American Civil Rights Movement, Clifford D. Simak’s Time Is the Simplest Thing utilizes the tools of science fiction to make poignant comments on the issues of the day. The novel, the author’s sixth out of an eventual 29, was initially serialized in the May - July 1961 issues of Analog magazine with the equally appropriate title The Fisherman, and went on to be nominated for that year’s Hugo Award. (It lost, to Robert A. Heinlein’s Stranger In a Strange Land Read More

Dr. Futurity: An underrated Dick outing

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Dr. Futurity by Philip K. Dick

As I mentioned in my review of Philip K. Dick’s 1960 novel Vulcan’s Hammer, by 1959, the future Hugo winner was feeling decidedly disenchanted with science fiction in general, despite having had published some 85 short stories and half a dozen novels in that genre. The author, it seems, was still pinning his hopes on becoming a more “respectable,” mainstream writer, and had indeed already completed nine such novels: Return to Lilliput, Pilgrim on the Hill and A Time for George Stavros are considered lost, probably never to see the light of day, whereas Gather Yoursel... Read More

Vulcan’s Hammer: Minor Dick, but still very entertaining

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Vulcan’s Hammer by Philip K. Dick

According to Philip K. Dick authority Lawrence Sutin, in his well-researched biography Divine Invasions, by 1959, although Dick had already had some 85 short stories as well as half a dozen novels published, his interest in creating more sci-fi had reached a low point. The future Hugo winner was at this point hoping to become more of a mainstream author, having by this time already written nine such novels, none of which had been published … yet. Still, with bills to pay, a wife (his third of an eventual five) to support, and his first child on the way, economic necessities did, it seem, perforce drive him back, unenthusiastically, to the sci-fi realm. Tw... Read More

Eye in the Sky: Very early PKD

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Reposting to include Sandy's new review.



Eye in the Sky by Philip K. Dick

Jack Hamilton has just lost his job as an engineer for a government defense contractor because his wife Marsha is a suspected communist sympathizer. Having nothing better to do for the afternoon, he accompanies Marsha to the viewing of a new linear accelerator. An accident at the accelerator beams the Hamiltons and six other unsuspecting citizens into a parallel universe that at first appears to be their world but soon starts to evince subtle differences that become more and more obvious as time goes on. There is some sort of “corny Arab religion” at work — God is all justice and no mercy so, for example, telling a lie brings down an immediate curse such as a bee sting.

There are miracles here that can be taken advantage of, such as a cigarette machine that Jack, a darn ... Read More

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