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More of an EOTW novel in progress, this one stems more from the rousing fantasies of Doc Smith and ER Burroughs than the hard science of Olaf Stapelton or even HG Welles. Remember, it's 1964, so there's gotta be some weirdness. And, a fancy that nothing's to be taken too seriously.

But hold onto your Suspension Of Disbelief dial. This one takes some leaps. Like a planet that just shows up between the Earth and the Moon, proceeds to crush the Moon for fuel, and create 8 times tides drowning millions of people, not to mention turning New York City into a lagoon and completely submerging South America. It's inhabited by cats and being pursued by a giant steel ball named Authority. Leiber doesn't necessarily make these jumps successfully. Like when the human captive bones the feline alien . . .

There's a structural problem, too. Leiber opts for an ensemble approach, but gets carried away with too many bit players. He interlaces a dozen or so plot strings and characters, which becomes confusing and boring. Half of the stories would suffice. Considering it's the longest novel he ever wrote, a little editing would have been prudent.

There are some interesting ponderings, however. Like the overpopulation rant (Ballantine, 1972, 3rd issue, p.254), the Wanderer itself running from The Hounds Of Heaven (p. 260), and characters that say things like, “then evil's just an auto accident?” (p. 106).

All in all, it's bigger in concept than characters. It does a pretty good job with most clichés of the genre like man-goes-feral-facing-disaster, barring the Black Dahlia murder scene (p.183). Music-crazed hippies storming the police barricades is a little shrug-inducing also (p.227). Then there's the silly love affair with Tigerishka and the contrivance of an alien ray gun--it literally falls from the sky—just in time to move pesky boulders from the road.

However, I must say, of all the End Of The Wordl novels, this one boasts the most unique determinant. And that's worth points, my friends, and laughs.

 

6/12/2005

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