The angry ghost of the other world: Doc Savage again (#SFWApro)

4340916THE OTHER WORLD (cover by James Bama, all rights to current holder) is a good SF entry that starts off with a mysterious pilot, Decimo Tercio, landing at a farm near St. Louis. When a bull charges him, he kills it with a spear thrown from an atlatl. Then he heads off to the city’s fur mart, where he puts down some incredibly beautiful, utterly unique furs. He charges five grand, with which, as we learn later, he plans to buy the best, most powerful guns and ammo available.

Two Winks, a local fur trader, remembers that two men — Fancife and Arnold “Chris” Columbus — have expressed interest in hearing about such a trader. Two Winks contacts them both, but throws in with the obviously crooked Fauncife. They try and fail to stop Columbus getting a message to Doc Savage. While neither crook rises above “petty crook,” they’re cunning enough to hold their own against Doc and Co. for most of the book.

Eventually everyone winds up going back to the source of the furs, a Pellucidar-like inner-earth world (though it’s a giant cavern, not a hollow Earth). What makes it more memorable than the lost land of Land of Terror is Doc’s geeky response, as he stares around, starts ticking off everything he’s seeing and makes mental notes on the things paleontology has gotten wrong. He’s so distracted, in fact, that he’s blindsided when a saber-tooth attacks him. And then comes the T. rex (there’s a reason Tercio wanted those guns). And then comes the giant weasels of the cover, a surprisingly effective menace that can run faster, jump higher and climb better than Doc. In keeping with Lester Dent’s ongoing efforts to humanize Doc, the Man of Bronze completely loses his cool and makes several bad mistakes.

Of course, things eventually turn out okay. The bad guys buy it, Chris stays in the cavern with Lanta, a beautiful cavewoman, and Doc agrees to keep the existence of this other world a secret.

THE ANGRY GHOST by William Bogart is much less effective. It starts with a young English woman, Annabel Lynn, apparently attacked by something unseen in the waters off Rockaway Beach. Then various installations — forts, gun ranges, bridges — start collapsing up and down the coast. Is some kind of invisible giant attacking America? The woman goes to Doc for help but a Ham imposter tricks her. Nevertheless Doc gets involved. What follows is lots of aimless chasing and confusion before we learn the secret of the “angry ghost”: it’s a sonic ray-weapon an unnamed European power is using to pressure the United States into forgiving that nation’s WW I loans.

It’s a weak story, partly because the “ghost” always seems like a ray from the very first. And the mystery only stays puzzling because people keep refusing to tell Doc anything. Not that this is unusual (Columbus in the previous book refused to reveal where Tercio came from) but Bogart pushes it too far: the government refuses to let Doc in on the problem because they’re afraid if he knows, it’ll leak to the newspapers. The feds should have known better. And at one point, Doc’s aide Long Tom actually cracks the secret, but Bogart promptly forgets this.

Once again, it feels like WW II is pressing on the series (this one came out in February, 1940). It’s very easy to assume the unnamed foreign power is Germany, which walked away from its promised WW I reparations (which was not seen as unreasonable at the time — they were quite ruinous). But it’s not absolutely definite, which let stories like this avoid the outrage of the isolationists (advocating for getting involved in another European war was a Bad Thing). It’ll be a while yet before full-blown Nazi adversaries become the order of the day.

Cover by Boris Vallejo, all rights to current holder.

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1 Comment

Filed under Doc Savage, Reading

One response to “The angry ghost of the other world: Doc Savage again (#SFWApro)

  1. Pingback: Continuity and Doc Savage: The Boss of Terror, The Awful Egg (#SFWApro) | Fraser Sherman's Blog

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