The War in the Air by H.G. Wells
The War of the Worlds wasn't the only masterpiece that H.G. Wells wrote with the words "The War" in the title. The War in the Air, which came out 10 years later, in 1908, is surely a lesser-known title by this great author, but most certainly, in my humble opinion, a masterpiece nonetheless. In this prophetic book, Wells not only predicts World War I -- which wouldn't start for another six years -- but also prophesies how the advent of navigable balloons and heavier-than-air flying craft would make that war inevitable. Mind you, this book was written in 1907, only four years after the Wright Brothers' historic flights at Kitty Hawk, and two years BEFORE their airplane design was sold to the U.S. Army for military purposes. In The War in the Air, Wells also foresees ai... 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 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 War in the Air by H.G. Wells
The Yellow God: An Idol of Africa by H. Rider Haggard
H. Rider Haggard's 33rd work of fiction out of an eventual 58, The Yellow God was first published in the U.S. in November 1908, and in Britain several months later. In this one, Haggard deals with one of his favorite subjects -- African adventure -- but puts a fresh spin on things. Thus, instead of Natal, Zululand, the Transvaal and Egypt, where the bulk of his African tales take place, The Yellow God transpires, for the most part, in what I gather is now northern Nigeria. And instead of big-game hunter Allan Quatermain (the protagonist of no less than 14 Haggard novels), here we are given Alan Vernon, an ex-Army colonel who, with his steadfast servant Jeekie, goes on a quest to find the legendary gold hordes of the undiscovered Asiki people. And, after braving a ha... Read More
The Haunter of the Ring & Other Tales by Robert E. Howard
A very long time ago, when I was still in high school, Texas-born Robert E. Howard was one of my favorite authors, and this reader could not get enough of him, whether it was via such legendary characters as Conan the Cimmerian, King Kull, Solomon Kane or Bran Mak Morn.
Flash forward more years than I’d care to admit, and one day I realized that I hadn’t read a book of Howard’s in all that intervening time. Sure, I’d run across the occasional story of his now and then; when your tastes run to vintage pulp fiction, as do mine, and you read a lot of old anthologies and Best of Weird Tales collections, the man is practically unavoidable. But an entire book devoted to Howard … it had been eons, for me.
Thus, the collection entitled The Haunter of the Ri... Read More
Nobody’s Home by Tim Powers
Tim Powers’ fourth novel, The Anubis Gates, was such a perfectly crafted, fully self-contained work that I doubt very much if any of his legion of fans could have reasonably expected a sequel. Released originally in 1983, the book has gone on to become a classic of sorts in both the “steampunk” and “secret histories” fantasy subgenres, deservedly earning itself both the Philip K. Dick Award and a pride of place in Jones & Newman’s Horror: 100 Best Books. Showcasing Powers’ gift of seemingly limitless imagination combined with a staggering amount of historical research, the novel was a true dazzler; as I enthused after my initial read, its “way-out plot manages to conflate the brainwashed ‘ka’ of Lord Byron, a body-hopping werewolf, an underground criminal society headed... Read More
To Live Again by Robert Silverberg
By the time Robert Silverberg released To Live Again in 1969, he had already come out with no less than three dozen science-fiction novels and several hundred short stories, all in a period of only 15 years! The amazingly prolific author had entered a more mature and literate phase in his writing career in 1967, starting with his remarkable novel Thorns, and by 1969 was on some kind of a genuine roll. Just one of six sci-fi novels that Silverberg came out with that year (including the Nebula-winning Nightwings and my personal favorite of this author so far, Downward to the Earth), To Live Again initially appeared as a Doubleday hardcover and, surprisingly, was NOT nominated for a Hugo or Nebula award. To t... Read More
Seven Footprints to Satan by Abraham Merritt
Readers of Abraham Merritt's first four novels — The Moon Pool, The Metal Monster, The Face in the Abyss and The Ship of Ishtar — may feel a little surprised as they get into his fifth, Seven Footprints to Satan. Whereas those earlier fantasy masterpieces featured exotic locales such as the Pacific islands, the Himalayas and Peru; extravagant purple prose, dense with hyperadjectival descriptions; and living light creatures, metallic sentient cubes, a lost semi-reptilian race and battling gods, Seven Footprints to Satan Read More
FU MANCHU by Sax Rohmer
The FU MANCHU novels that English author Sax Rohmer wrote over the course of nearly half a century are much beloved today, although their notoriously un-P.C. content has made them the subject of dispute for many years. It has been a while since I have read the 13-book series, and have decided to place all my old thoughts on these books in one place for the FanLit reader who may not be familiar with these works. This overview, by no means in depth, can serve as your one-stop shopping destination for all things Fu. There remains one book, an anthology of short Fu Manchu stories, that I will deal with elsewhere. But here are the 13 novels in the main series, and my quick thoughts on each of them:
The Insidious Dr. Fu Manchu (aka The Mystery of Dr. Fu Manchu) (1913)
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The Haunting of Toby Jugg by Dennis Wheatley
Although English author Dennis Wheatley wrote a total of 55 novels before his death in 1977, his reputation today, I have a feeling, rests largely on the nine novels that he wrote dealing with the supernatural and the “black arts.” And if Wheatley’s name is not a familiar one to you, it is really no great wonder, as not too many of those 55 titles – mainly in the adventure/thriller genre – are in print today, and it would surprise me if you could walk into your local Barnes & Noble and purchase one. And yet, here’s a cautionary notice to all hugely popular modern-day authors, who may think their fame is of a permanent nature (are you listening, Stephen King?): For many decades, Wheatley was one of Britain’s biggest-selling authors (second only to Agatha Christie), who dependably sold 50 million books a year,... Read More
The Time Axis by Henry Kuttner and C.L. Moore
Henry Kuttner and C.L. Moore's sole novel of 1948, The Mask of Circe, was a very way-out excursion in the fantasy realm, and in early 1949, the pair followed up with an equally way-out piece of hard sci-fi. The Time Axis, which initially appeared in the January '49 issue of "Startling Stories," finds science fiction's foremost husband-and-wife writing team (my apologies to Damon Knight and Kate Wilhelm!) at the top of their game, but perhaps giving their seemingly limitless imagination too free a rein. The book is well paced, finely and at times humorously written, exciting and colorful, but ultimately, unfortunately, not fully satisfying.
The story here concerns the "nekron," a shadowy whatz... Read More
The Second Trip by Robert Silverberg
In his 1969 novel To Live Again, Robert Silverberg posited a world of the near future in which it is possible for the very rich to have their personae recorded and preserved, and later placed in the mind of a willing recipient after their own demise, as a means of surviving the death of the body and sharing their consciousness with another. It is a fascinating premise and a terrific book, and thus this reader was a tad apprehensive at the beginning of Silverberg's similarly themed novel The Second Trip. Would Silverberg merely repeat himself here, to diminished effect, and offer his audience a mere rehash of an earlier great work? As it turns out, I needn't have been concerned. Silverberg, sci-fi great that he is — especially during this, his remarkable second phase of writing, ... Read More
Carpathian Castle by Jules Verne
When 35-year-old Jules Verne managed to sell what would become his first published novel, Five Weeks in a Balloon, to the already long-established literary publisher Pierre-Jules Hetzel, in 1863, little could the two Frenchmen know that this was just the beginning of a decades-long association. Hetzel was already a well-known Parisian figure, having previously released works by such luminaries as Victor Hugo, Emile Zola and Honore de Balzac. Verne, the future “Father of Science Fiction,” was an unknown commodity in 1863; a lawyer who found his true calling as a writer of adventure tales (just as this reader’s personal favorite author, Englishman H. Rider Haggard, would do 20 years later). Five Weeks in a Balloon Read More
The Stonehenge Gate by Jack Williamson
What do you plan to do when you're 97 years old? Me? If I'm fortunate enough to attain to that ripe old age, I suppose I will be eating pureed Gerber peaches and watching Emma Peel reruns on my TV set in the nursing home ... IF I'm lucky. For sci-fi Grand Master Jack Williamson, the age of 97 meant another novel, his 50th or so, in a writing career that stretched back 77 years (!), to his first published story, "The Metal Man," in 1928. Sadly, the novel in question, 2005's The Stonehenge Gate, would be the author's last, before his passing in November 2006. Impressively, the novel is as exciting, lucid, readable and awe inspiring as anything in Williamson's tremendous oeuvre. Few authors had as long and productive a career as Jack Williamson, and I suppose it really is true what they say regarding practice... Read More
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
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