Sunday, September 18, 2011


If you're trying to escape reality a bit and want to enjoy an unusual, intriguing, fast-paced novel, the latest book by Paul Malmont should be just about perfect.

"The Astounding, the Amazing, and the Unknown" (Simon & Schuster, $26) will whisk you away to 1943, when America was involved in the middle of World War II.

Malmont, the author of "The Chinatown Death Cloud Peril" and "Jack London in Paradise," offers an exciting tale that features many major science fiction authors as main characters.

Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov and L. Sprague de Camp play a central role in this smooth and exceptionally clever literary mixture of fact and fiction.

Heinlein is recruited by the Navy to form a "Kamikaze Group" of writers to work on a special project at the Philadelphia Naval Yard.

The authors are set up in a military laboratory, hired to try to make an assortment of science fiction themes a reality, including the creation of death rays and force fields.

Pulp magazine writer L. Ron Hubbard joins them in a madcap adventure that will take them on unexpected journeys.

As the war tensions increase, the U.S. government is expecting great things from this group of authors as the country struggles to stay ahead of Nazi military innovations.

An interesting plot twist is developed as the heroes investigate the ruins of a mysterious energy facility near Long Island that was created by Nikola Tesla.

There are many well-crafted, intriguing scenes as the group of authors challenges authority on various levels. They are joined by a variety of other pulp-era writers, including Walter Gibson (creator of "The Shadow") and Lester Dent (creator of "Doc Savage).

Malmont delves deep into the lives and relationships of the talented young authors, offering insights into Heinlein's insecurity about his writing skills, Asimov's marriage problems and his fascination with robots, and Hubbard's many unusual experiences during the war.

Cameo appearances by young Ray Bradbury, superfan Forrest Ackerman and even Albert Einstein add to
this highly distinctive, well-plotted adventure novel.

This is ideal reading for anyone who loves pulp magazines, science fiction or historical thrillers. It falls in the same category as the recent Captain America movie - or Michael Chabon's "Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay." It's simply an exciting, nostalgic tale that's great fun.

Malmont, who works in advertising, attended the Interlochen Arts Academy.

Ray Walsh, owner of East Lansing's Curious Book Shop, has reviewed books regularly since 1987.

This review originally appeared in the Lansing State Journal on September 18, 2011

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