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The Astounding, the Amazing, and the Unknown

3.60  ·  Rating details ·  308 ratings  ·  78 reviews
Based on an incredible true episode of World War II history, Paul Malmont’s new novel is a rollicking blend of fact and fiction about the men and women who were recruited to defeat the Nazis and ended up creating the future.

In 1943, when the United States learns that Germany is on the verge of a deadly innovation that could tip the balance of the war, the government turns

Hardcover, 432 pages
Published July 5th 2011 by Simon Schuster
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David I would say he is an essential character to the book. Prominent is maybe overstating it a bit. He talked about throughout the book and makes his…moreI would say he is an essential character to the book. Prominent is maybe overstating it a bit. He talked about throughout the book and makes his appearance in the second half.(less)

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3.60  · 
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 ·  308 ratings  ·  78 reviews

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Richard Derus
Jun 07, 2011 rated it liked it
Rating: 3.5* of five

The Publisher Says: Based on an incredible true episode of World War II history, Paul Malmont’s new novel is a rollicking blend of fact and fiction about the men and women who were recruited to defeat the Nazis and ended up creating the future.

In 1943, when the United States learns that Germany is on the verge of a deadly innovation that could tip the balance of the war, the government turns to an unlikely source for help: the nation’s top science fiction writers. Installed a
Jul 31, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A review mentioning that the basis of this novel is the fact that Robert Heinlein and some other science fiction writers had worked at the Philadelphia Navy Yard during World War Two caught my attention. Curiosity led me to this enjoyable, clever and witty book. The main characters include familiar names to fans of science fiction, fantasy and pulp fiction, including the creators of The Shadow and Doc Savage, not to mention L. Ron Hubbard. Cameos by people like Albert Einstein and John W. Campbe ...more
Kat  Hooper
Jul 10, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook
4.5 stars
ORIGINALLY POSTED AT Fantasy Literature.

It’s 1943 and World War II is going strong. There are rumors that the Nazis and the Japanese may be about to unleash a deadly secret weapon against America and people are afraid. But America may be able to create some secret weapons of its own, and who better to imagine and design them than the smartest science fiction writers of the age? So, under the direction of John W. Campbell (editor of the SFF magazines Astounding and Unknown), the Navy rec
James Kelly
Jun 05, 2012 rated it really liked it
Three and a half stars actually. I was quite taken by the sheer effrontery of this book, which fictionalized several of the sf writers I grew up on. It's delicious fun, if a somewhat trashy read, in that the plot is so unlikely and so unwieldy and yet it continually touches down in reality. It has the verisimilitude of history, but it isn't, of course. It's a little like Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris. What gave me a tickle of unease was the realization that if Malmont could do this to Heinlein ...more
Sep 19, 2011 rated it liked it
For a book that held SO much promise, "The Astounding...etc." was a real let-down. The concept is nothing short of fantastic. During WWII, the American government was so desperate to defeat the Germans that they hired a bunch of science fiction writers (all pulp writers at this time) to form a think-tank: to make some of the outrageous things they'd written about (making ships disappear, etc....)

Isaac Asimov is here, Robert Heinlein is here (he was once voted the best science fiction writer aliv
Oct 08, 2011 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: pulp fans, SF readers, alternate history fans
3.5 stars really--might have been higher if the author hadn't strained my suspension of disbelief on more than one occasion in this book.

An interesting conceit--Pulp science fiction authors (Campbell, Heinlein, Asimov, de Camp, and Hubbard along with a host of cameos and drop-ins by older and contemporary WWII pulp writers) try to make science fiction into fact for the War Department...and everyone suspects their intentions and abilities...and I loved the way the author worked Tesla's "failed"
Peter Tillman
Well, I was looking forward to this one -- but it opens really S-L-O-W. So I'm not sure this is one for me. Off to look at less-favorable reviews.....

OK: "a stilted mish-mash of real & fictional events around WW2" (1-star).
"Disjointed and annoying to follow...wish I had put it down." (1-star).

Still, most people liked it. Maybe I'll skip past some of the boring stuff & hope it gets going into fun. If not, well.....

Untouched in over two weeks. Lots of other stuff to read. Not looking goo
Wayne McCoy
Jun 24, 2011 rated it really liked it
A really fun read set during World War 2 and imagining the great Pulp and Science Fiction writers of the time were involved with the war effort. The main characters of the book are Robert Heinlein, L. Sprague DeCamp, Isaac Asimov and L. Ron Hubbard, but there are tons of cameos by other folks living at the time (including Walter Gibson and Richard Feynman to name just a couple and leave the rest for you to discover). Also included are references to the Philadelphia Experiment and Tesla's Wardenc ...more
May 03, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: library
A splendid romp through WWII era science fiction and fantasy pro-dom, with a completely demented story to tie together real people and curiously real events.
Tim Schneider
Jan 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
In some ways this is a little bit of a hard book for me to review. Some time in 2007 or 2008 I came up with the idea for a novel based at the Philadelphia Naval Yard with Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov and Sprague de Camp as the main characters and with the Philadelphia Experiment and Nikola Tesla at the center of the plot. I still have my notes on it, but I never got around to writing it. But Paul Malmont did in his sequel to The Chinatown Death Cloud Peril. Of course he added in L. Ron Hubbard ...more
Jann Barber
Jul 19, 2011 rated it really liked it
Based on a true episode from World War II, this novel takes place in 1943 when the US government enlists the aid of a group of science fiction writers to develop death rays, jet packs, and other things that they write about in an effort to help defeat the enemy.

Robert "Bob" Heinlein, L. Ron Hubbard, Isaac "don't call me Ike" Asimov, and Sprague de Camp are just a few of the names the reader will recognize. Nikola Tesla's and Thomas Edison's prior war over electricity plays a part in the story. E
Jeff Swystun
Jun 28, 2015 rated it it was ok
Malmont establishes a fun premise. A group of pulp/scifi authors are assembled to help defeat the Axis powers during WW2. These include Asimov, Heinlein, Hubbard, DeCamp and others. They are instructed to help realize the amazing weapons they have envisioned in their stories. I was caught up in it from the start but soon felt too much like an outsider owing to the author's detailed references. Unlike Chabon's Kavalier and Clay, I was not invited in to learn more. Rather, I felt more and more exc ...more
D.L. Morrese
Sep 18, 2014 rated it liked it
I'd classify this as historical fiction with some of the leading science fiction authors of the mid twentieth century as the main characters (with walk on parts for a couple notable scientists). The pulp writers have been collected by the U.S. government to imagine and develop sci-fi inspired technology to help with the war effort (WWII), and they soon become obsessed with the lost research of Nikola Tesla. It's a clever premise and a good read, overall, but the lack of a clear protagonist makes ...more
Jul 30, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
I don't think I would have enjoyed this book as much if it weren't for the characters being authors I've read. Interesting, though.
Jul 21, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2014, audiobooks
Inside baseball for sci-fi geeks, provided your knowledge base goes allllll the way back.
Fantasy Literature
May 28, 2013 rated it really liked it
Mar 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: x2017-18-season
For characters, take the early great sci-fi authors, sprinkle in some of the great pulp action authors, season with true tales of Tesla, and set it all amid the wild events of WWII. All in all, a worthy follow up to The Chinatown Death Cloud Peril.
Jun 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
A fun ride of a novel. Malmont takes a bit of truth and weaves a story worthy of the pulps. I'd suggest reading the Chinatown Death Cloud Peril first.
Lori S.
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dec 24, 2011 rated it really liked it
In the world of Science Fiction, the range of potential subjects is such that not only can we deal with vast distances but also a variety of ‘what if’s’. Indeed, we can also blur the lines between reality and fiction, through alternate universes or just by playing with what happened.
Here’s a great example of a book that mixes real events with fiction, and real people with some fictional.

The real events involve the war work of some of our legendary science fiction writers: Isaac Asimov, Robert He
Yoni Bain
Aug 11, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: b-o-o-k-c-l-u-b
3WR: "Astoundingly, amazingly terrible."
Jun 28, 2011 rated it it was amazing
What would have happened if our government thought that the Germans were close to developing a super weapon during World War II? Author Paul Malmont supposes that the Navy would have recruited a special think tank of pulp magazine Sci-Fi writers to turn the ideas of Science Fiction – such as death rays, weather control, and invisibility – into science fact. Malmont takes this premise and runs with it, bringing the reader along for one heck of a joy ride with such authors as Robert Heinlein, Isaa ...more
May 29, 2015 rated it liked it
I may have wanted to like this book a little too much. Its premise--goofily extrapolated from actual historical circumstances--is that a group of (mostly) sci-fi writers let by Robert Heinlein have been contracted by the government to imagine and produce defensive and offensive weapons for the fight against Hitler. Deathrays are often mentioned, as is a coating to make ships invisible to enemy radar. The writers thus employed are people like L. Sprague de Camp, Isaac Asimov, and (informally?) L. ...more
Nov 20, 2011 rated it really liked it

Having read so much Heinlein and Asimov, I could not resist reading this. It falls into a category I have named Reading Fun. It is a rather specific category for me. It means books that are just big fun to read the whole way through.

It is a fact that mid World War II several pulp writers were recruited by the US Navy and set up in a lab at the Philadelphia Naval Yard. Their orders: to turn the science fiction wonders they had written about into scientific fact in an effort to win the war. Death
Margaret Sankey
Dec 20, 2012 rated it really liked it
A sort-of sequel to the Chinatown Death Cloud, this one sees the return of Lester and Norma Dent, Walter Gibson, Robert Heinlein and L. Ron Hubbard, although this time joined in work at the Philadelphia Navy Yard by Isaac Asimov and L. Sprague de Camp. The Navy, like their British counterparts, have put the magicians, forgers and science fiction writers (many of whom are also chemists, engineers and physicists--if not always degreed)to work on weapons of the future--ships that can escape detecti ...more
Sep 26, 2011 rated it really liked it
Malmont's sequel-of-sorts to The Chinatown Death Cloud Peril, finds a collection of sci-fi writers brought together to help the Allied war effort during World War II. Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, and Sprague de Camp are tasked by the US Navy to develop working versions of the kinds of things that they normally only write about.

As with Chinatown..., Malmont populates this story with a never-ending parade of writers, both old and new--including old favorites Walter Gibson, Lester Dent, and L. Ro
Nov 07, 2011 rated it liked it
It is an interesting view of the 1940s through the lens of science fiction writers of the time. Most all of the broad outlines of information here turn out to be true (per wikipedia), and I learned about Jack Parsons rocket scientist/pagan, catenary vaults, Jimmy Stewart's war activities, the war in the Aleutians, Nazi superbombers and the volcanic history of Tonga. Cameo appearances by lots of sf people, including Ackerman, Van Vogt, Vonnegut, and more.

But the main storyline was a bit too diff
A fascinating mix of the history of key science fiction writers, an explanation of the "Philadelphia Experiment", a few touch points with the Manhattan project, and a bit of Nikolai Tesla. I loved it. I have no real idea how much of this is well-researched history on the key people, and where the fiction takes off. The characterizations of Heinlein and Asimov (and Urey for that matter) seem right-on from what I've read and the people I've talked to. I found almost every chapter (or "Episode" in ...more
Sep 17, 2011 rated it liked it
Enjoyable novel about the wartime efforts of Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimonv, Sprague de Camp, and Ron Hubbard to come up with a way to make ships invisible. Starts off from the true fact that these guys did work together in Philadelphia, and adds a lot of speculation from there. Fun, with good characterizations of the principals, and lots of other cameos by the famous and well-known (i.e. James Stewart). Fans of golden age science fiction will appreciate it most; I imagine Scientologists won't.

Bryson Kopf
Aug 19, 2011 rated it really liked it
This was a lot of fun; the plot in a nutshell is during WW II, a special division is created consisting of science fiction authors led by Robert Heinlein (and a team including Issac Asimov, Sprague de Camp, and L Ron Hubbard) is charged with creating weapons and devices from their imagination to help defeat the Nazis. But wait there is more! Secret electric death towers made by Tesla! A mysterious underground bunker below the NYC subway! Deadly danger on exploding volcanoes!

Malmont does a great
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