The Devil Rides Out by Dennis Wheatley
When I first saw the 1968 horror film "The Devil Rides Out" several years back at one of NYC's numerous revival theatres, I thought it was one of the best Hammer films that I'd ever seen, and made a mental note to check out Dennis Wheatley's 1934 source novel one day. That resolve was further strengthened when I read a very laudatory article by Stephen Volk on the book in Kim Newman and Stephen Jones' excellent overview volume Horror: Another 100 Best Books. Now that I have finally read what is generally deemed Wheatley's most successful and popular novel, I can see the Hammer film for what it is: a watered-down adaptation that can't hold a Black Mass candle to its superb original. The great R... Read More
Sandy FerberOn FanLit’s staff since April 2014 (but hanging around here since November 2012)
SANDY FERBER 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 is 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 Devil Rides Out by Dennis Wheatley
Star-Begotten by H.G.Wells
Released 39 years after his seminal sci-fi novel The War of the Worlds was published in 1898, and just two years before Orson Welles scared the bejeebers out of U.S. listeners with his radio play of that same novel, 1937's Star-Begotten finds its author, H.G. Wells, returning to the Red Planet to tell us more about those mysterious and pesky Martians. Written when Wells was 71, this latter work — rather than being a tale of action and mayhem and a truly groundbreaking instance of the then-still-new science fiction (or, to use the term that Wells preferred, "scientific romances") — is more a novel of ideas and speculation, of satire and bitter condemnation, and, I have a feeling, is a largely unknown work today. And that is a shame, as it is obviously a deeply felt work; an appeal to reason in a... Read More
The Trial of Terra by Jack Williamson
Jack Williamson's The Trial of Terra made its initial appearance in 1962, as one of those cute little Ace paperbacks (D-555, for all you collectors out there). The book is what's known as a "fix-up novel," meaning that parts of the book had appeared as short stories years earlier, and then skillfully cobbled together by the author later on to form a seamless whole. Despite this, the book is a stand-alone novel in the Williamson canon, with no relation to any of the other books in the author's substantial oeuvre.
The Trial of Terra tells a very interesting story, and one that might strike my fellow Trekkers as a bit familiar. It seems that there has been a galactic Quarantine Service in effect for many millennia, its job being to ensure that no planet makes first con... Read More
Mary of Marion Isle by H. Rider Haggard
The great H. Rider Haggard wrote a total of 58 novels before his death in May 1925, and of that number, four were released posthumously. Mary of Marion Isle was his penultimate creation, one which he wrote in 1924, although, as revealed in D.S. Higgins' biography of Haggard, the idea for the story first came to him in 1916, while sailing to Australia and watching the albatrosses circling his ship. The novel was ultimately released in April 1929, and, as stated by Higgins, was limited to a run of only 3,500 copies by the publisher Hutchinson & Co. Somehow, many years ago, I got my hands on one, and in fair shape, too. I'm glad I did, because it turns out to be another wonderful Haggard adventure, although many reviewers (Higgins included) tend to denigrate these later Haggard titles as being mere rehashes of older works. Well, I suppose that some of the themes and set pieces in... Read More
The Collected Ghost Stories of E.F. Benson by E.F. Benson
I had read E.F. Benson's The Horror Horn to start with (a collection of 13 of his best ghost stories), after seeing that it was considered one of the Top 100 Horror Books of all time in Newman & Jones' excellent overview volume. Each of those 13 stories was so good that I just had to have more, and so picked up this collection — The Collected Ghost Stories of E.F. Benson — of every single one of Benson's spooky tales, 54 in all. This collection certainly did not disappoint; I loved every single one of these ghost stories, and was riveted ... Read More
The Ship of Ishtar by Abraham Merritt
The Ship of Ishtar, one of Abraham Merritt's finest fantasies, first appeared in the pages of Argosy magazine in 1924. An altered version appeared in book form in 1926, and the world finally received the original work in book form in 1949, six years after Merritt's death.
In this wonderful novel we meet John Kenton, an American archaeologist who has just come into possession of a miniature crystal ship recently excavated "from the sand shrouds of ages-dead Babylon." Before too long, Kenton is whisked onto the actual ship, of which his relic is just a symbol. It turns out that the ship is sailing the seas of an otherdimensional limboland, and manned by the evil followers of the Babylonian god of the dead, Nergal, and by the priestesses of the Babylonian fertility goddess, Ishtar. A f... Read More
Earth’s Last Citadel by C.L. Moore & Henry Kuttner
Catherine Moore and Henry Kuttner, generally acknowledged to be the preeminent husband-and-wife writing team in sci-fi history, initially had their novella Earth's Last Citadel released in the pages of Argosy magazine in 1943 (indeed, it was the very last piece of science fiction to be serialized in that publication). It was finally published in book form 21 years later. This is a pretty way-out piece of sci-fi/fantasy that reveals its debt to a handful of writers who had been major influences on the pair, particularly the florid early works of Abraham Merritt.
In it, four participants in the conf... Read More
The Compleat Werewolf by Anthony Boucher
The Compleat Werewolf and Other Stories of Fantasy and Science Fiction gathers together 10 short stories and novellas from the pen of Anthony Boucher, all of which originally appeared in various pulp magazines (such as Unknown Worlds, Adventure Magazine, Astounding Science Fiction, Weird Tales and Thrilling Wonder Stories) from 1941-'45. Boucher, whose real name was William Anthony Parker White, was a man of many talents, and during his career, which lasted from the early '40s to the late '50s, he worked as a magazine editor, a book reviewer (for The New York Times and New York Herald Tribune) and an author of science fiction, horror and mystery.
I initially learned of this Compleat Werewolf collection of 196... Read More
A Scanner Darkly by Philip K. Dick
Whether unjustly or not, no other science fiction author has been as closely linked to the 1960s drug culture — at least in the public eye — as Philip K. Dick … and understandably so. From the San Francisco bar in The World Jones Made (1956) that dispensed pot and heroin, to the Bureau of Psychedelic Research in The Ganymede Takeover (1966); from the amphetamine and LSD use in Ubik (1969) to the afterlife description in A Maze of Death (1970) that Dick mentions was based on one of his own LSD trips; from the time travel narcotic JJ-180 in Now Wait For Last Year (1966) to the drugbars in Our Friends From Frolix-8 (1970); from the... Read More
The Humanoid Touch by Jack Williamson
In Jack Williamson's classic short story "With Folded Hands" (1947), the inventor of the Humanoids — sleek black robots whose credo is "To Serve And Obey, And Guard Men From Harm," even if that means stifling mankind's freedoms — makes an unsuccessful attempt to destroy the computer plexus on planet Wing IV that is keeping the many millions of units functioning. In the author's classic sequel, the novel The Humanoids (1949), another unsuccessful stab is made, 90 years later, by a "rhodomagnetics" engineer and a small group of ESP-wielding misfits, to stop the Humanoids (which now number in the billions) and their campaign of relentless and smothering benevolence. And in Williamson's much belated follow-up, 1980's The Humanoid Touch, we flash forward a good 1,000 years or so, to... Read More
The Humanoids by Jack Williamson
The late 1940s was a period of remarkable creativity for future sci-fi Grand Master Jack Williamson. July '47 saw the release of his much-acclaimed short story "With Folded Hands" in the pages of Astounding Science-Fiction, followed by the tale's two-part serialized sequel, And Searching Mind, in that influential magazine's March and April 1948 issues. Darker Than You Think, Williamson's great sci-fi/fantasy/horror hybrid, was released later in 1948, and 1949 saw the publication of And Searching Mind in hardcover form, and retitled The Humanoids. "With Folded Hands" had been a perfect(ly downbeat) short story that introduced us to the Humanoids, sleek black robots invented by a technician named Sledge on planet Wing IV. The ro... Read More
Heart of the World by H. Rider Haggard
Although I had previously read and hugely enjoyed no fewer than 40 novels by H. Rider Haggard, I yet felt a trifle nervous before beginning the author's Heart of the World. I had recently finished Haggard's truly excellent novel of 1893, Montezuma's Daughter — a novel that deals with the downfall of the Aztec empire in the early 16th century — and was concerned that Heart of the World, which I knew to be still another story dealing with the Aztecs, would necessarily be repetitive. As it turns out, however, I needn't have worried. Despite the Aztec backdrop, the two novels are as dissimilar as can be; whereas the first deals with an Englishman witnessing the Indian conflicts with Cortes from 1519 - 1521 and the fall of the Aztec capital, Tenochtitlan, Heart of the World takes place a good three centuri... Read More
The Creature From Beyond Infinity by Henry Kuttner
The Creature From Beyond Infinity was the first novel published by Henry Kuttner, an author who was one of the half dozen or so pillars of the Golden Age of Sci-Fi. It first saw the light of day in a 1940 issue of "Startling Stories" magazine under the title A Million Years to Conquer, and finally in book form in the 1968 Popular Library paperback that I recently completed. Although that original title may perhaps be a more accurate descriptor, the pulpier Creature title gives a truer feel for what this book is: pulpy as can be!
In it, we meet Ardath, the sole survivor when his Kyrian spaceship crash-lands on Earth while our planet is still in the throes of its infancy. Ardath is instructed by his dying captain to repair the ship, put it into orbit around Earth, go into hibernation stasis for several aeons, and await the coming of genius... Read More
When the World Shook by H. Rider Haggard
In 1916, as World War I raged, Henry Rider Haggard, then 60 years old, started to compose his 48th novel, out of an eventual 58. Originally called The Glittering Lady, the novel was ultimately released in 1919 under the title we know today, When the World Shook, and turned out to be still another wonderful book from this celebrated author, in which many of his old favorite themes (lost civilizations, reincarnation, love that survives beyond the grave) are revisited, but with a new spin.
As in his first success, King Solomon's Mines (1885), we meet three intrepid Englishmen — Arbuthnot, Bastin and Bickley — and follow them on their amazing adventure. The three are quite a mixed trio, to put it mildly, Bastin being an upright, priggish, highly religious pastor; Bickley being a hardheaded materialist, a doctor and man of science (hi... Read More
Son of Man by Robert Silverberg
Back in the 1970s, there was a certain type of film that, whether by chance or design, became highly favored by the cannibis-stimulated and lysergically enhanced audience members of the day. These so-called "stoner pictures" — such as Performance, El Topo, Pink Flamingos and Eraserhead — played for years as "midnight movies" and remain hugely popular to this day. Well, just as there is a genre of cinema geared for stoners, it seems to me that there could equally well be a breed of literature with a genuine appeal for those with an "altered consciousness." That we don't hear of such books is perhaps due to the fact that reading requires more in the way of active mental work than does film gazing; reading is not as passive an activity, generally speaking, as watching a film, and entails more of an exercise of the imagination.
But if there ever WERE such a genre of literature as the... Read More