Ace Double Reviews, 65: The Atlantic Abomination, by John Brunner/The Martian Missile, by David Grinnell (#D-465, 1960, $0.35)
by Rich Horton
This one qualifies as a rather randomly chosen Ace Double -- on the one hand, I like Brunner, on the other hand, here's an opportunity to review Wollheim (who used "David Grinnell" as a pseudonym for much of his fiction) back to back.
Both of these novels are about 43,000 words long. As far as I know this is the first publication of The Atlantic Abomination in any form, though I may have missed a shorter magazine version under another title. The Martian Missile was first published in 1959 by Thomas Bouregy and Co. Which means some other editor evidently approved of it -- good thing! since I would have been pretty annoyed had Wollheim chosen his own piece of utter garbage!
The Atlantic Abomination opens with an alien being panicking as his world seems to be falling apart. We soon gather that Earth, long ago, has been dominated by a few aliens of a species with special telepathic powers. But geological catastrophes are ruining this early human "civilization", and at least one alien escapes to a specially prepared lair.
Fast forward to the 20th Century, and an deep ocean expedition, using special technology to allow exploration of the ocean bed. The explorers happen upon a mysterious installation, which of course is the lair of the evil alien. The rest of the novel is readily enough predicted -- the alien awakes and takes over as many humans as he can. He proceeds to the East Coast of the US and enslaves thousands. An international effort attempts to stop him, with some success, but the alien seems to be figuring things out. Our hero is enslaved, but his new wife (both oceanologists from the original expedition) remains free, but he manages somehow to escape. Does humanity survive? Well of course.
I am being somewhat sarcastic, a bit unfairly. This is certainly nothing special as a novel, but in following its very predictable path, it does entertain. Brunner was just a damn good writer of, for lack of a more precise word, pulp. He always gave value for money. I enjoyed the novel, though I don't think I'll remember it or reread it.
The Martian Missile can also be described as "pulp". 30s pulp. Really BAD 30s pulp. I suppose Wollheim may have written this in 1958 or so, but it sure reads, with its scientific and astronomical stupidities, like it was written in 1931.
A small-time criminal, hiding out in the desert, happens across a crashed alien spaceship. He rescues the alien, only to have the alien implant a bomb or something that will go off in a few years if he doesn't take a special message to the alien's fellows. Naturally he figures that this "message" might mean no good for humanity, but he doesn't see an alternative.
So he sneaks aboard a Russian rocket, and manages to get to the moon. He is able to rendezvous with various planted alien ships, and he proceeds to Mars, Jupiter, and finally to Pluto. Needless to say the description of the conditions on these planets are scientifically ridiculous. Our hero becomes aware of a cosmic battle between good, bad, and indifferent aliens, and he is able to figure out a way to play them off against each other and both save Earth and save his skin.
On the whole this is pretty much SF at its worst. I've read other Wollheim/Grinnell novels, and none of them make me think Wollheim's writing career is anything to be rediscovered, this has to qualify as below his usual standard.