Thursday, July 7, 2016

Sword Fights, Invisibility Cloaks and Nazi War Criminals

When I stumbled across the Summer 1945 issue of Planet Stories online, I downloaded it primarily because "Spider Men of Gharr" is pretty much a title that by itself forces one to read the actual story.

But today I want to talk about one of the short stories from this issue--"Raiders of the Second Moon," which is a tale I think is particularly fun. But SPOILER ALERT--after writing several drafts of a review, I discovered this is one of those stories that you simply can't talk about effectively without giving away important plot points.

So I would recommend you read the story HERE (it begins on page 43), then return to this blog to see if you agree with what I have to say. It's only 10 pages long, so it is a quick read.

But the writer (Basil Wells, writing under the name Gene Ellerman) packs a lot of stuff into those 10
pages. It turns out there's a second moon hidden behind Luna--a planetoid called Sekk with a breathable atmosphere and a human civilization. Our hero, though, is from Earth. He's got amnesia, so goes by the name of Noork, called this because he muttered "good 'ol New York" when he first crashed on Sekk. So he doesn't remember that he's an American pilot who had been pursuing a Nazi war criminal. The Nazi had escaped in a home-made space ship. Noork grabbed another prototype ship and pursued. Both ended up on Sekk.

That's actually a pretty impressive resume for a hero, isn't it? A World War II pilot is so determined to catch the Nazi that he tries his hand at flying a space ship he had just then stumbled across. That he crash-landed on Sekk might lose him a few points, but its still pretty cool.

All this background information, by the way, is fed to us gradually throughout the story. In fact, I was at first assuming I was reading part of a series of stories about Noork, since we initially get the impression we are jumping in on a story already in progress. But that's just a side effect of clever plot construction and in the end everything ties together nicely.

Because he has no memory of the Nazi, Noork is caught up in rescuing the beautiful Tholon Sarna, who has been captured by the evil priests of the Temple of the Skull. The priests employ apparently invisible minions known as the Misty Ones.

Noork manages to mark a few Misty Ones by tossing fruit at them, which allows him to then peg one with an arrow. Once again, we can't help but be impressed with him. He just discovered how to battle evil by staging a food fight.

He learns that the Misty Ones use invisibility cloaks. Taking one from the guy he killed, Noork then proceeds to sneak into the Temple of the Skull to rescue Sarna, which turns out to involve several deadly sword fights. But even when he's escaped the Temple with the girl, he still has that pesky Nazi criminal to deal with. And the Nazi has a gun...

"Raiders of the Second Moon" is fast-paced, internally consistent. and---as I said above--really, really fun. It does not break any new ground in the Space Opera genre, but it uses the established mores of that genre to spin an entertaining yarn.

It's not, by the way, the first time a Space Opera tale gives us a second moon. There's another one out there inhabited by vampire frog people. In comparison with that, Noork probably had it pretty easy.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...