Modern Pulp

Captain Future and the Space Emperor

Captain Future – #1; Edmond Hamilton

Vintage Science Fiction Month

If you have heard of Captain Future prior to the TV show The Big Bang Theory, then you are a science fiction nut like myself and many of the bloggers that I know.  (For those who do not know, the characters on the TV show have a poster of Captain Future on their apartment wall.)  Anyway, my blogging friend the little red reviewer encourages us to read Vintage Science Fiction in January.  So I thought about it and selected a few items, one of which is the first “issue/novel” of Captain Future.  Now, I certainly did not go out to any big city comic book store and fetch up an authentic vintage copy.  I read a copy from Amazon.com on my Kindle.  Normally, I do not like to post reviews on items I read on digital readers, but it *is* Vintage Science Fiction month.

Captain Future was created by Mort Weisinger and the stories were generally written by Edmond Hamilton. The stories were published in pulp fiction magazines starting in (I believe) 1940.  The first “issue” that I read (on Kindle, vol. 1) was Captain Future and the Space Emperor.

Now, if you know anything about early pulp magazines/fictions, you know they were really pumped out by their respective authors and are not generally known for their high-minded, highly intellectual, or incredibly detailed writing.  Pulp.  What you get is a rollicking good story, action, adventure, and a neat concise ending.  Back in the day, one might say this was called “fun.”

And it was fun, which is the most I expected out of it.  I had a lot of fun reading it – and it does read oh so quickly.  Captain Future, Curt Newton, is a young lad who was born and raised on the moon.  His parents were killed by evil villains seeking to control their scientific inventions.  Well, Curt was raised, then, by those very “inventions,” to include a giant simple-minded robot, a synthetic “man,” and a brain-in-a-box ex-human.  As I write all of that – I have to admit:  how can any story involving that motley bunch not be filled with fun?!

The story begins by presenting a horrifying situation wherein humans are undergoing some sort of transformation which turns them into beasts.  They are, more or less, devolving into pre-human monsters. I didn’t count, of course, but I think the word “atavism” is used 2 million times in this volume.  The President of Earth calls Captain Future to solve the mystery – Captain Future is, naturally, our last hope!  So, Curt Newton and his crew of non-humans heads off in their fancy spaceship, the Comet, to Jupiter where all this atavisming is going down.

The rest of the story is full of action and adventure, as is to be expected.  I love how Captain Future is always so upbeat, positive, and confident! He can handle anything! No matter what happens, he knows what to do and knows how to solve the problem.  He’s skilled in science, strategy, fighting, etc.  He’s just the hero we need!  It is really charming, I suppose.  However, while 90% of this volume is action and adventure, I would be unfair to the author if I did not point out that there are times where he goes the extra step and “explains” why such-and-such device or science works.  It may not be gritty science and mathematics, but the attempt to give ratio for things is to be commended.  For example, I do not think I have ever read the word “acromegaly” before.  Also, in chapter twenty there is some solid ratio given for how “immaterializers” work – even to explain how acoustics still operate within them.

My favorite sentence:  “He looked up at the full moon that sailed in queenly splendor high above the soaring towers of nighted New York.”   Well, it’s just a hair shy of being purple prose, right? But it also has this fun, splendid way of describing the scene.  Anyway, I do intend to read the next volume and while this is not for those very serious types who read only hard sci-fi, well, it is perfect for people who want to have a fast read with a little vintage charm and a lot of fun.

3 stars

The Faithful Spy

THe Faithful SpyJust finished reading this. I started reading it in the fall of 2009.

From the publisher’s website: John Wells is the only CIA agent to ever penetrate al Qaeda. While living in the mountains of Pakistan, he became a Muslim, convinced of the decadence and shallowness of the United States. Now, on the orders of Omar Khadri–the malicious mastermind plotting more al Qaeda strikes on America–Wells is coming home. Neither Khadri nor Jennifer Exley, Wells superior at Langley, knows quite what to expect.

Well, like I said above, I started reading this book months and months ago. I got to about page 270 and stopped reading it for a long time. Throughout, I am glad to say that this book is very unique. Its original. That’s really hard to find in pulp fiction these days. I was relatively impressed with this fact. Its written fairly well.

The reason that I put the book down for several months was because the main character is so dismal. I mean, he is just DISMAL. I cannot describe it enough. He is entirely depressing. And when you read the book, you feel it. I decided I needed to read something else for awhile and maybe come back to this book – maybe. The character himself is interesting – unique and different from many of the heroes in pulp fiction. But he’s just so damn dismal! Ugh! A few chapters and you feel really heavy. The other characters were not as unique or interesting. Frankly, they were a bit flat.

The plot, though, is good. This is a good read for anyone who is really interested in terrorist-cells and covert spies. But you may want to take some antidepressants while you read. The author has continued to write novels including this main character (John Wells); the author is a good writer but if this character is just as dismal in the other books….. I don’t know that I can read along.

3 stars