Monday, December 05, 2011


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The Astounding, The Amazing, and The Unknown, Paul Malmont, Simon & Schuster, 2011, 416 pp

Having read so much Heinlein and Asimov, I could not resist reading this. It falls into a category I have named Reading Fun. It is a rather specific category for me. It means books that are just big fun to read the whole way through.

It is a fact that mid World War II several pulp writers were recruited by the US Navy and set up in a lab at the Philadelphia Naval Yard. Their orders: to turn the science fiction wonders they had written about into scientific fact in an effort to win the war. Death rays, force fields, invisibility and the creation of a super weapon inform their experiments. The reason: unknown to them and to the reader until the end of this highly entertaining novel.

Robert A Heinlein heads what he has named the Kamikaze Group, which includes Isaac Asimov, Sprague de Camp, and various other writers from the Golden Age of pulp science fiction. Even L Ron Hubbard shows up, on leave from the Navy after barely escaping the worst from a court martial. John Campbell, editor of the zines which make up the title and icons such as Doc Savage, Lester Dent, and Walter Gibson all play their parts.

Key to what turns out to be a mystery is the old conflict between Nikola Tesla and Thomas Edison. Even Albert Einstein makes a cameo appearance. Then there are the romantic escapades involving Heinlein's wives, Asimov's only wife, and Hubbard's various flames including one he shares with the drug addled magician Jack Parsons.

The pace is non-stop, the inside jokes are LOL funny, but best of all is Malmont's capturing of the pulp writing style. Heinlein, Asimov, de Camp, and Hubbard become the dare devil heroes they wrote about, facing danger and deceit, secrets and intrigue, as well as female entanglements.

At the same time, he satirizes these characters and their times, reminding us that all heroes have their foibles.

(The Astounding, The Amazing, and The Unknown is available in hardcover, eBook, and audio CD by order from Once Upon A Time Bookstore. To find it in the indie bookstore nearest you, click on the cover image above.)

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