Thursday, September 19, 2013

From Mars to Earth to Venus

Read/Watch 'em in Order #39

Gee whiz, Prince Zinlo of Olba (a kingdom located on ancient Venus) has led an interesting life. That's mostly because he wasn't originally Zinlo.

He began life as Rorgen Takkor on ancient Mars, then swapped bodies through a time/space thought transference process to become Harry Throne on modern Earth. But he was still feeling restless, so Dr. Morgan transfers him to the body of Zinlo on Venus. This sets up the plot for Prince of Peril, first anthologized in Argosy magazine in 1930.

As with the previous books in this series, this was done with the original Zinlo's permission. And we can understand why Zinlo was willing to move to Earth--he was being stalked by assassins on his home planet.

Well, the new Zinlo is pretty good with a sword, so he manages to promptly do away with a pair of assassins within moments of arriving in his new body. But a later assassination attempt forces him to flee. This leads to his being present when the same guy who wants him dead kidnaps the beautiful Princess Loralie.

And thus begins a quest that takes Zinlo across much of Venus, either chasing after Loralie to rescue her or trying to escort her home. The situation reminds me a bit of the Edgar Rice Burroughs' Pellucidar novels Back to the Stone Age and Land of Terror, in which the hero is forced to travel across an unexplored land and encounters one unique danger after another.

Prince of Peril pulls this off successfully, because Otis Adelbert Kline really does present us with unique and fun situations. (Or rather, he recounts Zinlo's fascinating true history--Kline explains in his forward that he's not making any of this stuff up and who are we to doubt him?)

Aside from the various large and hungry fauna that wanders around the Venusian jungles, there's a swarm of giant blood-sucking leeches. There's also a tribe of 11-foot-tall intelligent cave apes who have a taste for human flesh. The apes are enemies at first, but Zinlo manages to defeat their king in single combat and thus make them friends and allies for a time.

Then there's my favorite part of the novel--a remote kingdom in which the king, his beautiful sister and about a thousand followers have used the thought transference process to place themselves in mechanical (but human looking & feeling) bodies, thus gaining functional immortality. They plan on using Zinlo and Loralie to reintroduce physical love into their culture, which doesn't go over well with our heroes. But though the mechanical bodies can be "killed" with some effort, the consciousness in each simply transfers to a back-up body. The king has at least a half-dozen back-ups handy, which means his inevitable duel with Zinlo is rather unusual.

Anyway, Zinlo and Loralie get back to civilization, but the original bad guy has by then usurped the throne. To save himself, his woman and his kingdom, Zinlo must very quickly organize and launch a revolution.

This leaves just one more novel to go, in which we'll return to the other side of Venus to see how Robert Grandon and his wife Vernia (the protagonists from Planet of Peril) are doing. We'll also learn a bit about how Venusian pirates operate, so stay tuned. That's the sort of information that might some day just save your life. Remember, Kline assures us this is all true!

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