Thursday, July 18, 2013

Enslaved by Giant Ants

Read/Watch 'em In Order #36

Planet of Peril, by Otis Adelbert Kline, was serialized in Argosy All-Story Weekly in 1929, so it was the first of his sword-and-planet adventures to see print.

But chronologically it comes after the two Mars books as it moves the action to Venus. Dr. Richard Morgan has sent several men to ancient Mars via a mind-swap technique. Then he sent his nephew to Mars in a space-time ship.

He's having difficulty building a new ship, so--after establishing telepathic contact with Venus as it existed millions of years ago--he sets up another couple of mind swaps.

Robert Grandon--a former soldier who's now bored with his life--is recruited to make the jump to Venus. Also, Harry Thorne--or rather the Martian guy in Harry Thorne's body after they swapped bodies in The Swordsman of Mars--makes the trip as well. The two end up on different sides of Venus, so "Harry" only as a brief role in this novel, but he'll get to play hero the next time out.

In the meantime, Grandon finds himself in the body of a guy sentenced to slavery in a mine because he once hit on Vernia, ruler of the powerful kingdom of Reabon. Which is ironic, because Grandon and Vernia will end up in love with one another well before the novel ends.

It's a rather unusual romance, because Grandon soon escapes from the mines and, after learning the language, soon finds himself leading a rebel army in the small country of  Uxpo, fighting to win their freedom from Reabon. That should make he and Vernia mortal enemies, but political intrigue changes the situation dramatically. Vernia's evil cousin is planning to usurp her throne, so arranges for her to be kidnapped by her own bodyguard. Shenanigans ensue, resulting in Grandon and Vernia on the run together.

Eventually, they end up in a remote valley where humans are enslaved by giant, intelligent ants called sabits. So a big chunk of the novel involves Grandon organizing yet another rebellion to free the humans from the sabits. After this is resolved, Vernia gets captured by her evil cousin. Grandon thinks she's dead and returns to lead the Uxpo rebel army once more. More shenanigans ensue, resulting a really cool battle sequence when the rebels attack a castle in tandem with cavalry riding giant ants.

It's all a lot of fun. Kline doesn't hesitate to use (and once or twice overuse) coincidence to move the plot along, but he handles the action scenes well; Kline gives us a nice mix of epic battles, smaller brawls and fights with the bizarre monsters that roam the Venusian landscape. He also manages to slip in several unexpected and interesting story arcs involving a couple of the supporting characters.

Vernia's a strong female lead, keeping her head in dangerous situations and outsmarting the bad guy at the denouement. In fact, it's a strength of the book that Grandon and Vernia can't just fight their way out of dangerous situations, but have to use their brains as well. Both have opportunity to come up with clever plans.

And, heck, the novel includes human cavalry riding giant ants. You really can't go wrong with that.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...