Monday, 6 July 2015

R is for something from Gutenberg

When you go to the Gutenberg web page and start exploring the huge inventory of their books, short stories, prints, poetry and more you can be there for days without surfacing. I really love their site.  I use the UB Reader on my Samsung tablet and Gutenberg easily downloads things to it. I can see the illustrations and it reads like a book. I find the combination of the two overwhelmingly amazing.

When I made up my A to Z post (last one) one of the items was to read something from Gutenberg beginning with the letter R.  When I visited the Gutenberg web site I found there is a title index for each letter of the alphabet as well as the author one.  I immediately went to the letter R and found a short story entitled The Radiant Shell. I thought it might be a fantasy story about a seashell.  Maybe it was magic or something,  The author is Paul Ernst. I soon discovered it is a science fiction story.  It was initially published in a book called Astounding Stories from 1932.

Paul Ernst was an American writer born around 1899 and died around 1985. According to web pages I reviewed about this writer the jury seems to still be out. There is little information about him online.

He was best known for his 24 Avenger novels written between 1939 and 1942 using the name Kenneth Robeson. He was known as a Pulp and Science Fiction writer and the Penguin and I had fun with this short story.

I don't usually read Science fiction but the gods threw it up at me on Gutenberg so who was I to argue.

It opens with high faluting politicians and military officials sitting around a conference table discussing how the small country of Arvania had stolen the plans for the deadly Ziegler heat ray weapon. It is the deadliest weapon known to mankind and with it they have the ability to completely destroy the USA in 3 months beginning with Washington DC.

Enter their secret scientist. Thorn Winter. He has developed a paint like substance that can cover his body and make him invisible for a limited time. The "Radiant Shell".  He has a plan. He will enter the  Arvanian Embassy as an invisible man and steal the plans back.  Then the world, or more likely the USA will be safe from destruction.

"The man who presently appeared in the doorway was an arresting figure. A man of thirty-odd with the body of an athlete, belied somewhat by the pallor of an indoor worker, with acid stained, delicate hands offset by forearms that might have belonged to a blacksmith, with coal black hair and gray eyes so light as to look like ice-gray holes in the deep caverns of his eye-sockets. This was Thorn Winter."

Of course he makes it inside the embassy and nothing goes to plan. When he walks on the carpet, the nap moves. If he stands in front of furniture with vertical lines the lines look interrupted. He also needs to work fast as his pores are covered and he will die if he doesn't wash the covering off before too long.

There is suspense when an Irish Wolfhound enters the scene and goes crazy over the smell. The Arvanians get suspicious and can feel there is someone in the room. When they lock down the room and start swinging long swords around and finally use a machine gun our hero is truly threatened.

The story is concisely written and we don't need to wait long for the action.  The stereotypes of the enemy are quite predictable even for 1932.  Of course they are dark swarthy men with black beards. Bad people never seem to be blonde or blue eyed.

"Dark of hair and complexion were these men, with the arrogant hawk noses and ruthless small eyes of the typical Arvanian. Several of them were garbed in military uniforms and armed with swords. They were talking in tones too low for Thorn to distinguish words through the film over his ears. He would have to get in there to hear them.
For the third time the wind pushed at the door."

The Penguin got a bit carried away.
I do need to get after him at times.

It was a fun read and I never would have known about this fun Sci Fi writer if it hadn't of been for my Alphabet Challenge and sitting here this morning between 6:00 and 7:00 with frost on the grass, dogs asleep and a hot cup of coffee.  This getting up early in the morning has been good fun. I think I am becoming a morning person after only 60 some years.

If you would like to read this story you can access it here.

No comments:

Post a Comment

I love comments. I promise to try very hard to reply to any message left.