Saturday, July 9, 2011

Book Review: The Astounding, The Amazing, and The Unknown

Geeks of Doom: Book Review: The Astounding, The Amazing, and The Unknown
The Astounding, The Amazing, And The Unknown is a vibrant, highly suspenseful race to solve a Nikola Tesla mystery, defeat the Nazis, and help end World War II. In a desperate attempt to make that happen, the U.S. Navy forms a team of some of the best and brightest imaginations from the world of popular science fiction pulp magazines of their time. The team includes Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, Walter Gibson (of The Shadow fame), and a pre-Scientology L. Ron Hubbard, all of whom were regular contributors to the pulps named in the title of this book.

Using equal parts imagination and scientific research, the team attempts to accomplish their government-mandated goal of thwarting the enemy by creating death rays and invisibility cloaks for naval ships. In the midst of their research, the group stumbles upon an unconfirmed experiment of Tesla’s that may have either led to free electricity across America or a super-bomb capable of completely obliterating a whole country half a world away, as well as an old rivalry between two scientists that may have led to murder. It’s up to the team to sort out the mystery and complete Tesla’s experiment before the military shuts down the project altogether or someone else shuts them up permanently.

Told as a story within a story by one of the members of two groups of scientists and writers comprised of fictionalized versions of well-known figures, including Albert Einstein, The Astounding, The Amazing, and The Unknown is an exciting tale weaved around historical events during World War II. The blending of fact and fiction and real people as characters was a little confusing to me at first, as I’m new to this mash-up style. The beginning of the story seemed to be a red herring, as the setup in the opening pages didn’t lead where I thought it would. By the time we return to those fully fleshed-out characters some 400 pages later, I had to go back and reread the beginning to figure out who was who, what the setup for the story was, and which character was telling it.

Putting all that aside, author Paul Malmont has written an energetic adventure with just enough science to feed my inner geek without reminding me what a poor science student I was in high school. The characters are so richly drawn, I’d completely forgotten to care who among them were once living, breathing people.

The Astounding, The Amazing, and The Unknown is the follow-up to Malmont’s debut novel, The Chinatown Death Cloud Peril, by all accounts another

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