Ace Double Reviews, 77: The Alternate Martians, by A. Bertram Chandler/Empress of Outer Space, by A. Bertram Chandler (#M-129, 1965, $0.45)
a review by Rich Horton
This pairs two non-Grimes novels by A. Bertram Chandler. Both are fairly loopy. Both are also parts of other small series by Chandler. The Alternate Martians (42,000 words) is the sequel to The Coils of Time, another Ace Double (#M-107, 1964). Empress of Outer Space (41,000 words) is the first of three books about the Empress Irene of the Galaxy (or at least the human controlled galaxy.) The sequels were also published in Ace Doubles: Space Mercenaries (#M-133, 1965) and Nebula Alert (#G-632, 1967). I know of no prior publication of any of these stories.
In The Alternate Martians Christopher Wilkinson has returned from a trip to an alternate Venus, this one a lush inhabitable version, where he found an alternate version of his dead fiancée, Vanessa. In her timeline, Wilkinson had died, so the two are available for each other. They are ready to be married, done with galumphing about the "coils of time" (it is Chandler's conceit that the trips to what seem alternate worlds are really time travel, and that time is a sort of helix or "coils", repeating with alterations). But Wilkinson is offered command of a spaceship that will travel to Mars, where scientists wish to see what the alternate Martian past might resemble. One believes it is likely to include real life versions of fictional representations of Mars: his idea is that writers such as Wells and Burroughs had sort of ancestral memories, somewhat garbled, of the different versions of Mars on other "coils of time".
Wilkinson and Vanessa are not intended to travel to the alternate Mars, but of course they do, after a bumbling engineer violates orders and activates the space drive will the time travel unit is being tested. They explore what seems to be a pumping station from the Martian poles, a la Barsoom, but one group is captured by a "tin octopus": clearly a version of Wells' Martians. Wilkinson and Vanessa end up with a group of wild humans, including a Delia Doris (i.e. "Dejah Thoris") as well as a Tars Tarkas. They are resisting the rule of the decadent blood-sucking Wellsian Martians. But the Martians capture them. Luckily, their superior Earth (and Venus) strength comes in handy, as does the superior tech of those remaining at the spaceship/timeship, who finally come to the rescue ...
As I said, loopy stuff. But in its limited way, kind of fun. Chandler never cared a whit, as far as I can tell, for stuff making sense, or for consistency, or, well, for anything but the next colorful incident. I find that exasperating, on the whole -- others may not care as much.
In Empress of Outer Space, a Terran spaceship Captain, Mortimer Jones, has been captured after he took over a world and set himself up as Chief Priest of a silly religion. The Empress Irene has taken charge of the criminal proceedings. Benjamin Tafford, who had formerly worked with Jones, is working for Naval Intelligence. But Jones escapes, along with one of Irene's doubles. He sets up as a pirate, and Irene insists on leading the chase, dragging Tafford along as captain in name only.
Unfortunately some aliens mistake them for Jones's pirates, and shoot up their ship. They crashland on an uninhabited planet -- or so it seems. But when they go out to investigate, they seem to find themselves on a planet that is a weird combination of Oz and Barsoom, with James Bond thrown in for good measure. Tafford and Irene go through some harrowing adventures. In the process, they fall in love, despite Tafford's previous frustration with Irene's highhanded ways, and her frustration with what she saw as his interference.
But then ... well, I won't reveal what happens. Another confrontation with Jones will of course result, and Tafford and Irene will cement their budding relationship, and, well ...
On the whole I don't think this story held together quite as well as The Alternate Martians. Minor work, I think, but I suppose it will appeal reasonably well to Chandler's fans.