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Reading Doc Savage: The Czar of Fear

This is number twenty-two of the Bantam Reprints. On the green-toned cover, Doc is menaced by several figures in black hoods with glowing green eyes. A trick of the light makes it appear that the middle figure actually has three glowing green eyes, but the text does not support this, alas. This figure also has a shape half-obscured on its chest that will turn out to be a green bell but in this looks more like one of those things you put over food to keep them warm. Doc is posed very awkwardly, head turned towards the men and stepping toward them while wrenching his chest towards us in order to display rippling muscles half-obscured by the customary ripped shirt.

The narrative begins with a radio squawking and a man in a lunch-room: “pale fright rode his face”. He’s gulping his fourth mug of coffee, accompanied by two women, one “a striking beauty” in her twenties and the other “a pleasant-faced grandmother type.” We learn their respective names are Jim, Alice, and Aunt Nora and they’re in search of Doc Savage.
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Nattering Social Justice Cook: This Is Not A Review

So I read a book recently and I loved some parts of it and other parts…not so much. And I’ve been thinking about it ever since because there was one part of it I just adored but I don’t feel like I could tell anyone to read the book without a big “hey and you should watch out for this” addendum. I’d bounced off a previous book by this author with what was supposed to be grimdark but had a big ol’ weirdly ungrimdark gendered clichĂ© early on that made me think so hard about it that I couldn’t pay attention to the rest of the book.

I’ve talked before about reading when the protagonist is markedly not you, and how used to it women — and other members of the vast majority the mainstream media calls Other — become. And this was a good example of a very young, very male, very heterosexual book. Which God knows I’m not opposed to. I remain a huge fan of the Warren Murphy and Richard Sapir Destroyer series and Doc Savage was a big influence on me, growing up.

So why did this book hit me so hard in an unhappy place? Because it was so smart and funny and beautifully written and involved connected stories about a favorite city and magic, which are three of my favorite things. And because it had a chapter that was one of the best short stories about addiction that I’ve read, and that left me thinking about it in a way that will probably shape at least one future story.

And yet. And yet. And yet… Continue reading

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Reading Doc Savage: Land of Always-Night

In packing for a trip, I discovered I’d somehow bypassed some of the earlier Doc Savages, so we backtrack now to book 13: Land of Always-Night. On the cover, Doc, wearing torn shirt and steampunk goggles, looks back and away from a grove of giant mushrooms, not noticing the several odd figures vaguely resembling the Monarch from The Venture Brothers menacing him with raised hands.

This one has to be my favorite beginning yet:

It is somewhat ridiculous to say that a human hand can resemble a butterfly. Yet this particular hand did attain that similarity. Probably it was the way it moved, hovered, moved again, with something about it that was remindful of a slow-motion picture being shown on a screen.

The color had something to do with the impression. The hand was white, unnatural; it might have been fashioned of mother of pearl. There was something serpentine, hideous, about the way it strayed and hovered, yet was never still. It made one think of a venomous white moth.

It made Beery Hosmer think of death. Only the expression on Beery Hosmer’s face told that, for he was not saying anything. But he was trying to. His lips shaped word syllables and the muscle strings in his scrawny throat jerked, but no sounds came out.

The horrible white hand loaded up toward Beery Hosmer’s face. The side street was gloomy, deserted except for Beery Hosmer and the man with the uncanny hand. The hand stood out in the Merck almost as if it were a thing of white paper with a light inside.

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Reading Doc Savage: The Sargasso Ogre

Our cover is mainly green, depicting Doc poling a log in what have to be anti-gravity boots because there is no way he would maintain his balance otherwise, towards an abandoned ship. As always, his shirt is artfully torn and … Continue reading

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Reading Doc Savage: The Spook Legion

We return to a gentler, more innocent world again with Doc Savage number 16: The Spook Legion. In the intervening time since Quest of Qui, they’ve undergone adventures The Fantastic Island, Land of Always-Night, and Murder Melody. For people interested in undertaking their own reads, here’s an excellent post about which Doc Savage books to start with.

On the red-toned cover, Doc confronts a machine with what seems to be a cabalistic gesture of some sort. Maybe just jazz hands; the cover artist was fond of a particular kind of pose. Careful ok shows Doc is in the process of turning insibile; the bricks behind him are starting to show through.

Author Lester Dent tries to pull off some tricky stuff in this book and it sometimes trips him up, unfortunately. How much that actually affects the book is something I’ll leave to you to judge. It’s also a fairly convoluted book, presenting the information as though sliding things into place to give us the final picture. You have to respect Dent’s ability to plot and willingness to just go all the way with the weirdness at times.
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Reading Doc Savage: Quest of Qui

Cassie, in the process of shedding a box of Doc Savage novels, found out I loved them and passed them along. I remember Doc and his men fondly; while at my grandparents for a Kansas summer when I was twelve or thirteen, I found my uncle’s old books, which included a pretty complete run of the Bantam reprints and reveled in them for years to come.

I’m going back and rereading while making notes; my hope is that I’ll start to notice some patterns as I move through the books and that I’ll be able to talk about pulp tropes, gender assumptions, reading fiction aimed at a gender other than your own, and writerly techniques in an entertaining and (maybe) useful way. I’ll go consecutively by issue date of the ones I have; I will go back and fill in earlier ones as I run across the books.

So let us begin.
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