tENTATIVELY, cONVENIENCE's Reviews > The Alternate Martians / Empress of Outer Space

The Alternate Martians / Empress of Outer Space by A. Bertram Chandler
Rate this book
Clear rating

by
534016
's review

really liked it
bookshelves: sf

review of
A. Bertram Chandler's The Alternate Martians / Empress of Outer Space
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - July 28-30, 2016

This is an Ace Double: 2 novels in one bk: one cover side being the beginning of one, the other cover side being the flip of the 1st being the beginning of the 2nd novel. The Alternate Martians is a sequel to The Coils of Time (see my review here: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/6... ) & I enjoyed it for that. Wilkinson was the astronaut turned time-traveler in The Coils of Time & Henshaw was the scientist who developed the theory & the device. Early on, we get a slight recap of the beginning premise of the previous novel:

"Wilkinson, for reasons of his own, had agreed to act as Henshaw's guinea pig. He had hoped that if the scientist's time machine did work it might be possible for him, sent back a year or so in the past, to do something to avert the Martian Maid disaster or, failing that, to make certain that his fiancée, Vanessa Raymond, was not among the passengers aboard that ill-fated vessel." - p 6

The recap continues w/ some of the time theory:

""To begin with, the Coils of Time. The ever-widening spiral—with the past towards the center, inwards, and the future expanding outwards. The repetition of personalities on coil after coil." - p 15

OK, I just have to quote my own review of extensively here for those of you who haven't already read that & memorized it in case the bk-review-e-burning-squad appears:

"I don't remember where I read about this spiral time theory 1st. I may've run across it in William S. Burroughs or maybe in José A. Argüelles's The Transformative Vision (1975) wch I read in July of 1976. The Coils of Time is from 1964 so I have to give Chandler credit here for precociousness.

"I incorporated the idea of spiral time into my own personal dating system wch I discuss at length in the "Do's & Don'ts of Dating" section in my footnotes bk (2006). Since copies of sd bk are almost impossible to come by, I'll quote a little from that section here:

""ANYWAY, reading Argüelles' book, I was no doubt inspired to try to create a dating system that both reflected the possibility of cyclical time as well as an attempt to have a simultaneous linear time. So, believe it or not, that's another layer that's added onto the afore-discussed dating header that I developed. HOW? In December of 1990EV, I decided to try to organize all of the letter substitution texts into one spiraling text labeled a "calendar" - as I'd originally intended them to be read.

""The idea of these texts was that they were to form 2 'narratives': 1. the 'narrative' of their linear context, & 2. the 'meta-narrative' of their substitutions. These 2 'narratives' were meant to be in conflict with each other in the sense that the substitutions of successive letters for "e" (& various other manifestations not gone into here but gone into in the "l;a;n;g;u;a;g;e" section) wd make the 'linear text' harder to read & the 'linear text' AND the seperateness of the texts as they wd ordinarily be perceived wd make the 'meta-narrative' harder to perceive.

""Additionally, the 'meta-narrative' is cyclical because the substitutions are using a limited vocabulary of 26 letters wch are cycled thru. This, after "(z)" is reached, the substitutions go to "(a)" thru "(d)" & then to "(ee)", etc.. Giveen that the letters are then doubled (& hypothetically tripled, etc..), the cyclical repetitions are then doubled (& hypothetically tripled, etc..), the cyclical repetitions are not exact but similar by virtue of the same symbols being used.

""Ultimately, the time system I was getting at is neither cyclical or linear but a non-polarized 'marriage' of the 2 akin in spirit to the puns analyzed above! But alot more 'abrasive', eh?! Generating mental heat thru conceptual friction. Now we're getting somewhere. BUT, before I get to showing you a succession of images of the "CRUD(OO) SPIRAL TIM(OO) CAL(OO)NDAR"""

Chandler pays homage to his SF predecessors fairly often but he really goes all out w/ this one:

""But when it came to Mars—with assorted Martians complete with a canal system—were Wells, Burroughs and all the rest guessing, or remembering? Was there a Wellsian or Stapledonian Martian Invasion on some other Coils of Time? Was there a John Carter who married the Princess Dejas Thoris?" - pp 16-17

Once you've read that the answer to the following is clear:

""I'm only a biologist," remarked Titov. "As far as Physics is concerned, I don't know which way is up. So tell me, just what would happen if the Inertial Drive were operated at the same time as your Time Twister?"

""I don't know," admitted Henshaw reluctantly." - p 35

Well the answer's obvious! That'll give the author a chance to conflate together plot elements of his favorite Mars stories & to turn them into a new one - & I thoroughly enjoyed the process.

"More humans were coming into the hall. First there were two women, armed with those absurd spray guns, filling the air with the nauseating reek of carrion. And then, walking slowly and carefully, four girls entered, carrying between them the disgusting bulk of the High Overlord, the loathsome gray sack into which was packed, presumably, the thing's brains and internal organs. The saucer eyes glared coldly, and the tentacles writhed like twin nests of snakes." - p 109

"They were, I now saw, the most unearthly creatures it is possible to conceive. They were huge round bodies—or, rather, heads—about four feet in diameter, each body having in front of it a face. This face had no nostrils—indeed, the Martians do not seem to have had any sense of smell, but it had a pair of very large dark-coloured eyes, and just beneath this a kind of fleshy beak. In the back of this head or body—I scarcely know how to speak of it—was the single tight tympanic surface, since known to be anatomically an ear, though it must have been almost useless in our dense air. In a group round the mouth were sixteen slender, almost whiplike tentacles, arranged in two bunches of eight each." pp 132-133 H. G. Well's the War of the Worlds, 1961 Dolphin Books paperback edition

"He heard Titov mutter, his voice carrying a hint of wry irony, "The Swordsmen of Mars. . . . Christ!" - p 116

I figured that "The Swordsmen of Mars" was a reference to one or more of Edgar Rice Burroughs's Mars stories but, no, it's actually reference to a 1933 serialized tale by Otis Adelbert Kline that 1st appeared in Argosy magazine. Kline was a competitor of Burroughs's that I'd never heard of until I researched this.

In the flipside bk of this Ace Double there's a section that's equally applicable to this side:

"He marveled at Burroughs' conception of a Mars that never could have been, never could be—and while he was reading of the heroic deeds of John Carter the magic took hold of him and it was real, all real—the twin moons hurtling high over the arid sea beds of Barsoom, the swordsmen locked in combat on the heeling decks of the flying ships, the Green Martians on their six-legged thoats in thunderous charge across the lichenous plain." - p 27, Empress of Outer Space

Wch brings us to flip. The setting: outer space, the problem: one power-hungry rogue:

"And there Captain Jones, unwisely assuming that he was beyond the reach of the long arm of the Empress, had attempted to found his own peculiar kingdom."

[..]

"Captain Jones' officers and men were being executed, one by one, in the full view of the surviving populace, with all the archaic ritual of the stripping of braid and buttons and decorations, the leveled rifles, the rattling discharges and the smoke and the stink of burned cordite." - p 6

I can't say I find Chandler's literary tastes to be the most refined but I still find the way he inserts them into his novels fun:

"She gasped in delight and amazement. "Commander, there's a treasure here!"

[..]

"["]Judging by this list of titles he must have been an authority on late Nineteenth Century and Twentieth Century thrillers. Here's Burroughs—all the Tarzan novels and all the Martian novels. And Conan Doyle—the Sherlock Holmes stories. And Dumas—the Three Muskateers, of course. Fleming—the James Bond series. P. C. Wren—the French Foreign Legion novels" - p 28

Regarding the latter, see "Beau Jest" here: https://youtu.be/Z8WNrhWKdJ0 . Or am I hallucinating?

"At first it seemed vitally important that he recall the name of his dog—and then, as the hallucinogenic vapors drowned what remained of sanity, it didn't matter anymore. All that mattered was the bugles—imperious, insistent—and the compelling throb and mutter of the little drums." - p 58

This time it's an hallucination that conflates the various fictions together instead of the time travel slippage of The Alternate Martians:

""May I offer you refreshment, Milady? Milord Benjamin?" asked the Duke.

""I could do with a pint of wallop," agreed the Empress, lapsing suddenly into space tramp idiom.

"The Duke chuckled. "You too, have the way with words, Milady. But it is as good a way of describing out Barsoomian wine as any."" - p 61

Barsoom = reference to E. R. Burroughs's Mars stories.

"["]Know you that the affairs of Oz have reached a perilous pass.["]" - p 62

L. Frank Baum, natch.

""There's no need for 'em," the Empress told him. "With our weapons we're capable of taking on an army." She turned to the big General. "We're just wasting time talking about it. There'll be no need to waste time manufacturing gas masks and rocket projectors and barrage balloons. The Red Jeddak's weapons are no more than toys. Take us to Fort Zinderneuf."

""James," said M warningly, "why must you always get involved with women? They'll be the death of you yet."

""There'd be no story without them, sir,"" - p 70

The weapons, James, & M are from Ian Fleming's 007 James Bond bks. The last sentence heightens the meta-narrative aspect.

"["]There was one of the books in Vindictive's library by a man called Wells, The War in the Air, which was a fictionalized forecast of what might happen, which told the story of an attack launched by Germany on America, using a huge fleet of dirigibles, zeppelins they were called, gas bags with engines. . . ."" - p 84

""Perhaps," said the Jeddak, indicating what was laid out on the table, "you will join me in a light repast, Commander Bond. I must apologize for the lack of champagne—but, after all, you should not expect such bourgeois luxuries in a People's Republic. . . ."

"Trafford looked at the refreshments—the bowl of black caviar, with chopped hard-boiled eggs and onion and lemon wedges, standing in its larger bowl of crushed ice, the plate of thinly sliced dark brown bread, the bottle of vodka in its ice bucket. It was all very familiar, and he knew why. He said stiffly, "My name is not Bond."" - p 101

Perhaps it's all very familiar b/c it's from a James Bond novel, From Russian with Love perhaps? Chandler's pastiche of other novels entertains me even though I've never bothered to read Ian Fleming. I actually think Chandler is a better novelist than the writers he emulates - w/ the exception of Wells &, possibly, Dumas. Having a Soviet critique of Oz using a mixture of Fleming & Baum as a unifying gimmick is inspired:

""No doubt you were misled by the spurious glamour of the decadent bourgeoisie of the Emerald City—but did you see what is behind that glamour, what makes that glamour possible? Did you see the peasants, and the factory workers, and the miners, toiling their sixteen hours a day to keep their worthless masters in luxury? You did not.["]" - p 103

Keep in mind that the movie of The Wizard of Oz has been accused of harboring communist sympathies in the form of things like Dorothy's ruby slippers being red. Also E. Y. "Yip" Harburg, the guy who wrote the lyrics to the "Somewhere over the Rainbow" song, wch won the Academy Award for Best Original Song, was blacklisted:

"Although never a member of the Communist Party (he was a member of the Socialist Party, and joked that "Yip" referred to the Young People's Socialist League, nicknamed the "Yipsels") he had been involved in radical groups, and he was blacklisted. Harburg was named in a pamphlet "Red Channels: The Report of Communist Influence in Radio and Television;" his involvement with the Hollywood Democratic Committee, and his refusal to identify reputed communists, led to him being blocked from working in Hollywood films, television, and radio for twelve full years, from 1950 to 1962. "As the writer of the lyric of the song ‘God’s Country,’ I am outraged by the suggestion that somehow I am connected with, believe in, or am sympathetic with Communist or totalitarian philosophy," he wrote to the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1950. Harburg was unable to travel abroad during this period, as his passport had been revoked. With a score by Sammy Fain and Harburg's lyrics, the musical Flahooley (1951) satirized the witch-hunt's hysterically anti-communist sentiment, but it closed after forty performances at the Broadhurst Theatre on Broadway. The New York critics were dismissive of the show, although it had been a success during its earlier pre-Broadway run in Philadelphia." - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yip_Har...

Furthermore, think about current-days 'Ozs' such as Dubai where the spectacle is spectacular & is being built under appalling slavery conditions:

"Many Bollywood celebrities have gone on record to call Dubai as their second home, loving the emirate's breathtaking natural and urban landscape.

"Superstars such as Shah Rukh Khan and Salman Khan already own homes in Dubai, with yesteryears actress Shilpa Shetty recently selling her plush Burj Khalifa home.

"It seems the emirate will be home to another superstar couple.

"Earlier in 2015, local media reported that Bollywood couple, Abhishek and Aishwarya Rai-Bachchan had booked a 'bespoke mansion' in Dubai's Jumeirah Golf Estates, developed by Shaikh Holdings.

"The mansion is situated in the upscale Sanctuary Falls, a 97-villa project, that overlooks the Earth course, an 18-hole championship golf course, the venue of the DP World Tour Championship

"It has been widely reported in 2013 that Bollywood beauty, Aishwarya, had visited Dubai to select the interiors for her new home.

"According to the developer, each of the homes come fitted with a Scavolini designer Kitchen outfitted with Miele appliances. Nolte wardrobes and feature sanitary ware by Villeroy and Boch.

"According to the description on the company's website, 'the Mediterranean-themed villas with meticulously devised flood plans ranging from 5,600 to 10,700 square feet are detailed with arrival water fountains, resort-style swimming pools, full landscaped gardens and outdoor majlis seating areas.'

"The villas also offer 'state-of-the-art security and technology systems, which make for a 'safe and smart' home. The developers are also offering an optional premium home theatre in the villa!" - http://www.khaleejtimes.com/citytimes...

"Dubai and similar petro-dollar based Arab states know that the only way they can attract so many slaves is to offer them slightly more "salaries" than they get paid in their home countries which are already poverty stricken. They do not have any concept of minimum-living-wage in these Arab countries.

"They get paid $100-$200 on average. Not enough for groceries, let alone having a one bedroom for themselves to sleep in peace. Their reality is very grim, and the conditions they have to work in are very harsh and wretched.

"Instead of supporting the institution of slavery -- directly or indirectly -- in these countries, CONDEMN IT! DISMANTLE IT." - https://www.quora.com/To-what-degree-...

Some might say that I digress, I might say that I'm getting to the point.

""What are you raving about?" She got her hands under his armpits, dragged him to his feet. "Fort Zinderneuf? That's out of P. C. Wren's Foreign Legion stories. And the only Jeddaks I know are those in Burroughs' Martian novels . . ."" - p 110

LSD was 1st made in Switzerland in 1938 but I don't recall its getting that much attn until it became a tool of the counterculture for expanding consciousness. Then it became illegal, Prior to that it was being used by the CIA for mind control research. That was legally ok. Uh, what does that tell you about THE LAW?! Chandler's incorporation of it in his story is from 1965. "On October 24, 1968, possession of LSD was made illegal in the United States." ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lysergi... )

"["]The vapor that's released is more than just an anesthetic. It's similar in its effects to the hallucinogenic drugs used by psychiatrists—lysergic acid and the like.["]" - p 111

Note that Chandler's reference is to "psychiatrists", a sign of his times, rather than 'hippies'. Chandler deepens the references:

""Straight out of Fraser . . ." he said. And then, "I am surprised that a spaceman's mine should be capable of such a vision."

""You needn't be, Doctor," Trafford told him. "Fraser's The Golden Bough is required reading for all Survey officers."" - p 124

"A monumental study in comparative folklore, magic and religion, The Golden Bough shows parallels between the rites and beliefs, superstitions and taboos of early cultures and those of Christianity. It had a great impact on psychology and literature and remains an early classic anthropological resource." - http://www.bartleby.com/196/

Chandler's bks are targeted at a thrill-seeking readership, a readership presumed to be similar to that of the writers he admires & references but I don't think he ever quite 'made it'. There are subversive aspects to the plots that I doubt that Fleming or Wren ever introduced (although not ever having read either I cd be wrong). & then he has to go & ruin it all:

"["]There if the Empress Irene, Doctor, and here is plain Irene Smith, soon to become—if you'll have me, Benjamin—Irene Trafford.["]" - p 126

Sheesh.
flag

Sign into Goodreads to see if any of your friends have read The Alternate Martians / Empress of Outer Space.
Sign In »

Reading Progress

Started Reading
July 15, 2016 – Finished Reading
July 30, 2016 – Shelved
July 30, 2016 – Shelved as: sf

No comments have been added yet.