Book Quote:

“There have been rumors ever since Wardenclyffe was shut down that Tesla was up to something other than trying to create a new form of electronic communication. Something potentially devastating…I need you to help me find out what happened at Wardenclyffe. We need to know why the Nazis consider it a Wunderwaffe. A wonder weapon.”

Book Review:

Review by Bill Brody  (JUL 22, 2011)

The Astounding, The Amazing, and The Unknown by Paul Malmont is a celebration of science fiction’s golden years via the pulp magazine ethos. Taking place in 1943, it recounts a story partially based in fact about how the guiding lights of science fiction’s heyday were brought together by the military and tasked with making science fiction real in order to defeat the Nazis. Virtually all the authors who were the mainstays of science fiction and fantasy from 1930’s through the 1960’s are there. Robert A. (Bob) Heinlein is the leader of the team that includes the young Isaac Asimov, under the direction of the editor of Astounding Science Fiction, and Unknown, John Campbell. Heinlein, a graduate of the naval academy, was a prolific and talented writer who almost always got his science right. Asimov, the all-time most prolific writer of books in any genre appears as an earnest young writer in the process of earning his PhD in chemistry. L. Ron Hubbard is featured as are L. Sprague de Camp, Walter Gibson, and inventor/mad genius Nikolai Tesla among many others.

The center of the story is the quest for Nikola Tesla’s purported death ray that he thought caused the catastrophic Tungusta explosion which leveled 800 square miles in Siberia. The explosion is now regarded as having been caused by the impact of a meteor. Tesla, Edison’s rival, was the inventor of the radio and alternating current among many others. He is the perfect model of a mad genius, someone more bizarre and improbable than anything in fiction.

The novel is structured as a series of linked episodes echoing the structure of those novels serialized in the pulp fiction of the era. The pulps were soft cover magazines with short stories, serialized longer fiction, and articles that were printed on newsprint (hence the name, pulp, from the wood pulp source of the paper). The style and structure also recall serialized movies, likewise based on the pulps, shown in short segments in movie theaters up until the late 1950’s. Each episode here is more or less self-contained and many feature an improbable escape by the protagonist/heroes. The blending of fact and fiction is ingenious and great fun.

In one episode, Heinlein, Asimov, and Gibson escape from being trapped in the sub-basement of the Empire State Building by following the path of a buried river under Manhattan only to be swept away to finally emerge in the basement of 2 Fifth Avenue. Clive Cartmill’s prescient description of a functioning atom bomb as published by John Campbell in an issue of Astounding Science Fiction, gains attention by the FBI. A pair of thuggish FBI agents question Heinlein about Cartmill, Campbell, and the revelatory story. Their methods escalate to brutality when they are electrocuted by a lightning strike to their telephone. One of our science fiction heroes escaped from a cavern inside a volcano when it is erupting. He improbably escapes and coincidences just multiply.

The Astounding, The Amazing, and The Unknown celebrates science fiction’s glory years and does so by echoing the style and content of pulp fiction from the time of World War II. The portions that deal with the wives, lovers and generally left-wing politics of the science fiction authors are a nod to modern writing. So, too, is the animated and perceptive description of the fans and the science fiction conventions. Anyone who enjoys or nostalgically recalls such classics of the genre as the Lazarus Long stories, by Heinlein, or Asimov’s Foundation Series will find a comfortable and happy home here.

AMAZON READER RATING: stars-4-5from 5 readers
PUBLISHER: Simon & Schuster (July 5, 2011)
REVIEWER: Bill Brody
EXTRAS: Excerpt
MORE ON MOSTLYFICTION: Read our review of:

The Chinatown Death Cloud

More Nikola Tesla in fiction:

The Invention of Everything Else by Samantha Hunt


July 22, 2011 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: ,  · Posted in: Alternate History, Facing History, Mystery/Suspense, Speculative (Beyond Reality)

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