Terror on Planet Ionus

Discussion in 'Classic SF&F' started by Extollager, Sep 20, 2014.

  1. Matteo

    Matteo Well-Known Member

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    OK, Extollager, you're forgiven. After posting those extracts I have now been saved from getting Terror on Planet Ionus.

    Mods, please stand down the termination order.

    Although...now that I think about it...he has (deviously) forced me to read some of the book which despite its brevity is enough to make my brain shut down in protest. Perhaps this was his cunning plan all along; pique people's interest by mentioning how bad a book is, and by doing so persuade them to seek it out (because some of us here are like that); say "no, no, don't do that"...and then boom! hit them with an example of just how bad the book is! He's a fiend - no better than "the Terror" itself!

    Mods, forget what I said; re-implement the termination order.
     
  2. Matteo

    Matteo Well-Known Member

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    Joking aside, I assumed that the book was simply "bad" - along the lines of the accusation that is often thrown against books from the 50's and 60's and which is usually unfair since it ignores the fact that books from that era are very much "of their time" and only naïve by today's standards.

    But my god, that is some truly hideous prose.
     
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  3. Cat's Cradle

    Cat's Cradle Time, now, to read...

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    First of all, great-looking kitties, Extollager! :)

    Here is a link to a Wikipedia's brief bio of Allen Adler:

    Allen Adler - Wikipedia

    Interesting stuff. He evidently was co-author of the story Forbidden Planet was based on (as well as having co-written the story another 50s SF classic film was based on). I wonder if it's possible that Terror On Planet Ionus was written originally for another, intended-to-be-made movie? Wikipedia mentions that Adler was blacklisted from Hollywood in the 50s, because of the "Second Red Scare." Maybe Ionus was issued as a novel when he could no longer sell to film studios? All speculation, of course. But perhaps there's an Ed Wood type story here.

    Now I feel sympathetic toward the poor guy.

    ps--it's kind of cool that there's a Wikipedia page for a person who could be considered - surely - a remarkably obscure writer. Maybe there's hope for me yet!! :)
     
  4. BAYLOR

    BAYLOR There Are Always new Things to Learn.

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    Could it be a a political allegory in the guise of a bad science fiction novel? :)
     
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  5. Extollager

    Extollager Well-Known Member

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    There's a love triangle, two guys attracted to Janis.* There's the jet pilot Jeb Curtis: "His blue eyes were too hard and they peered coldly from underneath heavy brows. His lips were thin and too firmly set. And his nose had been broken too many times in the same place. But in a letter back home Janis remembered having described him as 'a man who is appealing in spite of himself'" (p. 10). The other fellow is Martin Edmur, "shy, rangy young scientist, usually so easy-going and slow-moving" (p. 11). Jeb seems to regard Janis more or less as his to claim by right, while nerdy Martin adores her.

    Well, you might think that, at the end, Jeb will redeem himself by dying to save the world from Karkong, and Martin and Janis will salute him as they go into the clinch at the novel's end. Or that Jeb will recognize the beautiful strong-willed alien Keesa as his soul mate, leaving Janis for Martin.

    Actually, the nerd ends up dying of painful injuries aboard the Mach jet, just barely able to activate a vital control (p. 158), while a few pages earlier Jeb and Janis confess their love for each other (p. 148). Nothing romantic develops with Keesa.

    As for Adler's Hollywood troubles -- there is a Soviet presence in the book, but the author seems to go out of his way to depict them as too ready to resort to nuclear weapons, etc.

    Obviously I've had some fun sharing plums of bad prose with you. There really are a few things that can be said for Terror on Planet Ionus:

    1.It gets the job done in 160 pages. I would rather read something like this than a novel written today (likely enough as part of some dreadful series) that's padded out with dialogue, tedious development of characters' backgrounds, repetitive scenes of destruction, etc. If writing today, Adler could have written this as an 800-page novel. He didn't.
    2.The military and technical material is convincing, at least convincing enough.
    3.Karkong was an interesting monster and I wondered if Stan Lee and Jack Kirby got the idea for Crusher Creel, the Absorbing Man, from the hardcover edition of this book. They took the "absorbing" idea much farther than Adler did, if so.

    *Adler seems to struggle a bit to describe her photographic portrait: "The face on the picture was beautiful. It was a young face, neither round nor angular but somewhat elliptical. Each single feature was, like the contour of the face itself, a soft, graceful arc" (p. 10).
     
    Last edited: Feb 13, 2017
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  6. Matteo

    Matteo Well-Known Member

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    And his nose had been broken too many times in the same place. For some reason this tickled me.

    But your conclusion does raise an interesting point. I love a good, long book. But as you say, too often there is too much padding. Stephen King is a prime example (and I say that as a fan) and is a man desperately in need of a strong/brave editor.

    And you name-checked the Absorbing Man! If only they'd had Thor with them...
     
  7. Extollager

    Extollager Well-Known Member

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    All right, world! Here it is: a summary-review of Terror on Planet Ionus, written in several installments as I made my way through the book. Spoilers abound.


    TERROR ON PLANET IONUS by Allen Adler. New York: Paperback Library, April 1966. 160 pages. 50c. “This Paperback Library edition is published by arrangement with Farrar, Straus, and Cudahy.” The book was formerly titled Mach 1. Read 9-12 Feb. 2017.

    It’s long been my impression that my eye had been caught by the cover of the January 1969 paperback edition, when I was a youngster in Coos Bay, Oregon. That was enough to make it stick in my mind. I’m sure I never owned a copy or read it. A bit whimsically, I decided to try for an interlibrary loan copy, which I began to read the day after it arrived.

    The chapters have no titles but are numbered, and, a bit awkwardly, some of the chapters have sections that also have no titles but are numbered. Thus, I have so far read: 1: 2, 3, 2:2, 3, 4, 5; 3:2; and 4. The first section of any chapter that has numbered sections is not numbered. I don’t remember ever seeing this kind of layout.

    In the first four chapters, we meet Jeb Curtis, jet pilot, ruggedly attractive to beautiful Janis Knight, meteorologist. Jeb gets slapped for kissing the unwilling Janis. He resents having to follow orders of security officer Commander Shawn, who is “in his soft-fleshed forties” (page 8). Shawn and Curtis seem to be feuding, but Admiral Buchanan insists that Curtis is the man for the job of flying the top-secret new jet.

    Curtis takes off when the time comes for a big test of the jet’s power. Suddenly the engine stops. Curtis finds himself and the Mach taken into a Grid Space Mass. “The Grid” is the name that the beautiful and tall Keesa uses to refer to herself and others aboard the clam-like space travel device. They appear in bizarre colors, e.g. “Keesa’s eyes were transparent gold and her hair was a solid platinum!” Curtis discovers that the Grid has also brought Janis aboard their weird vessel. Kalphon, another Grid person, tells Curtis that the Grid have come to save Earth from destruction from a “’wilful force, with an intelligence for evil.’” (page 48)

    I had hoped for something, as I read the first few pages, with the atmosphere of a good Outer Limits teleplay, but this seems to be shaping up to be more like a typical sci-fi movie.

    ///Up through Chapter 7, Adler introduces us to Ionus, which is a moon of Saturn. Its surface is a wasteland. The Grid-people have names all beginning in K: Keesa, Kalphon, Kimian, the Kal. Karkong is the deadly enemy. The humans on Ionus are Jeb and Janis, so the similar-sounding names are an odd feature of the book.

    Adler’s exposition seems muddled sometimes, but I gather that Karkong was an Ionian who had been transformed by his gluttonous absorption of energy; the Grid people occasionally voluntarily discharge electricity that builds up in their bodies. “’He has even devoured his own people! ….He draws the life out of all –through some kind of superpower in himself. And he grows with each feeding. He grows!’” (page 70) Karkong feeds off energy. The humans are surprised to learn that the Grid-people are unwilling to try to kill Karkong; they are shocked by the idea of killing, very reproachful of the earth people for their violence. They have for many years sent flying saucers to earth to gather information, etc. They have “films” of real Earth-violence such as the massacres during the Hungarian uprising and of a cowboy movie, etc., which they apparently also took to be real. They are shocked that people would watch such things for entertainment. The Grid-people fear that Karkong will use one of their “Masses” (a type of spaceship) and come to Earth and destroy it.

    The style is often “adequate” for telling the story, but has true pulpish touches, e.g. this section of Chapter 7:

    It [Karkong, I take it] was watching the two [Jeb and Janis] as they worked at the mirrors. Soon they would draw closer together and they could be taken by a single discharge. The killing force surged in its body, writhed for release. It waited, fighting itself, delaying the compulsive instinct to kill. Now! Now they were drawing closer! Soon...! Then it froze suddenly, sensing something. Something else, something alive, had just come to the surface. It could feel it, its senses drawn like a tropism. Yes! There! Another living creature standing in front of the opening. The opening leading from this depleted surface crust to the fulfillment of all craving and desire below!

    The next section has this sentence: “They were led staggering from the projectile and taken into weird black as a bat’s wing tunnels” (p. 73).

    Up to Chapter 10 Section 3, Jeb has returned to Earth in the Mach jet, which had been carried to Ionus and back in the Mass. Jeb tries to convince the military authorities that he has been to another planet and that a terrible monster is on its way to Earth. Jeb comes out of a bar with a woman and Karkong begins destroying the city.

    In Chapter 11, the creature has moved on from San Diego and is heading for Shasta Dam. Section 2: “Karkong had left a charred, lifeless rut one hundred yards in width and six hundred miles in length… a wake of cremation and death” (p. 118).

    As I’ve been reading, I’ve been thinking that I probably would have liked this book if I’d managed to buy a copy or borrow it from a friend, when I was 12 or 13.

    An army colonel “lit a cigarette and puffed it contagiously. Almost everyone else followed suit” (page 130).

    There’d been a meeting of representatives of major countries. Young Martin Edmur, who years for lovely Janis, had the idea of a North American power blackout to draw Karkong to one spot where perhaps alien technology could deal with him. However, the Russian advocates for nuking him act. As Martin expected, the discharge of power only makes Karkong ‘”bigger’” (p. 132).

    Janis admits to Jeb that she loves him. Elsewhere, borderline insane Buchanan commits suicide by jumping out a high window.

    “While hunanity [sic, with two Ns] cringed on the ignited powder keg of the earth” (p. 154), the crisis approaches.

    The novel ends with Jeb and Martin, and two other crewmen, aboard the Mach to attack Karkong. Martin is killed in an accident. The Mach bombs him and weakens Karkong’s forcefield. “Karkong stood reeling on the lifeless rock of a small, barren island [in the Aleutians, I gather]. The illuminating flashes of lightning were outlining a monstrous figure over thirty feet high. It stood in the center of its shattered field and it seemed to be clawing at the lightning. The thing’s form was that of a human giant that had been burned black by its own heat. The powerful muscles of its body were partially melted so that the tendons ran like tree roots from arms to chest, from legs to groin. Even its huge hands had been seared to webs and one foot was shaped like a charred elephant’s, as though it has served as a ground for its electric discharges. It was completely hairless and its face was a black putty lump of melted flesh. An ebony, tarlike substance oozed from its depthless eye pits as it did from its twisted mouth. Over-all, Karkong looked like a huge, human-shaped pile of pitch smoldering under intense heat” (page 159).

    The destruction of its field enables the Grid people in their Mass, their abhorrence of violence overcome at last, to destroy the “beast.” This done, they fly away. Jeb “saw the Grid Space Mass soar up and away. He watched it until it seemed to stop growing smaller. Then he realized that he was not seeing the Mass any more. He was staring beyond the opening clouds. He was watching a glittering star afloat in the serenely infinite heavens” – the final lines, with a poetic quality distinct from the rest of the book (page 160).
     
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  8. Ursa major

    Ursa major Bearly Believable Staff Member

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    I think he must have meant a "30-ft. tall steaming pitch"...


    ...which is why no-one would make a film out of it and it was eventually turned into a book.
     
  9. J Riff

    J Riff The Ants are my friends..

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    And really, bad prose aside, its probably no worse than lots of new SF or F scribblings.
    The huge pile of smoldering pitch, the thing known as Karkong, shambbbbled toward the stricken AtomicTorpedo man as he lay torpid on the tarmac, his thoughts a whirlygig jumble of who-knows-what...

     
  10. Toby Frost

    Toby Frost Well-Known Member

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    Was it rutting season?

    I used to be on a forum that had a special section for reviews like this. Some brave soul worked their way, chapter by chapter, through a book called "Ted Rockman, Freedom Warrior", which seemed like the SF equivalent of one of Chuck Norris' lesser films. It was set after a nuclear war and, if I remember rightly, frog-people and Hitler were involved. It sounded quite entertaining.
     
  11. BionicGriff

    BionicGriff Active Member

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    I wasn't aware Chuck Norris made "lesser" films.
     
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  12. J Riff

    J Riff The Ants are my friends..

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    Too bad there isn't still a market for this sort of thing, I could do some really bad spaceoperage, pretty sure...
     
  13. Extollager

    Extollager Well-Known Member

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    It's great fun the way this thread keeps going, for years, when almost nobody has read the book and it's understood to be a poor thing. I'm wondering if we can legitimately make it to 100 postings.
     
  14. BAYLOR

    BAYLOR There Are Always new Things to Learn.

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    This is a terrific thread Extolanger .(y)
     
  15. dask

    dask dark and stormy knight

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    Makes me regret the books I got rid of back in high school. Like thinning out a comic collection when too young to understand the stupid thing you're doing, it comes back to bite you like a pit bull that won't let go.
     
  16. Extollager

    Extollager Well-Known Member

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    Ah. I'll bet some people here at Chrons could tell some tales of such regretted clearances, and also that a few of such tales might be a bit too painful to tell.
     
  17. J Riff

    J Riff The Ants are my friends..

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    I know I had this book, years ago, but, there are many, many other cheesy classics out there in the world of SF PBs. Fortunatlely for us 'collector' types who lost all, everything... the cover art was generally the highlight of any such books; and one can find the cover art for many many of these aforementioned items... but still. What a great thread.
     
  18. BAYLOR

    BAYLOR There Are Always new Things to Learn.

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    This Thread almost makes me want to go buy this book. :D

    I would love to see this one become SYFY Channel original movie ? I bet it would become a cult film favorite? :D
     
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  19. Extollager

    Extollager Well-Known Member

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    Baylor, I don't think the novel as written would be filmed today. The leading lady does almost nothing but be pretty and be the prize. The guy who gets the girl in the novel would not get her in the movie. Either he'd die or he'd fly off into the galaxies with the alien babe, in either event leaving the nice guy nerd with the leading lady.
     
  20. Bick

    Bick A Member of the Forum

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    I'm sure it will keep on keeping on. This is a great thread.

    I want to read, well, not this book perhaps - because you have brought balance to the force by reading it, and one person on earth is probably enough - but something as bad. Funnily enough the highly pulpy Silverberg book "The Silent Invaders" was one of his I've enjoyed most and it was rather dreadful pulp. Silverberg couldn't even remember writing it 20 years later when asked to provide an intro to a new edition. That's the sort of book. What are the best recommendations of notoriously poor pulp SF, apart from Adler's masterpiece?
     
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