The Astounding, the Amazing, and the Unknown

The Astounding, the Amazing, and the Unknown

4.5 2
by Paul Malmont
     
 

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Based on an incredible true episode of World War II history, Paul Malmont’s new novel is a rollicking blend of fact and fiction about the men and women who were recruited to defeat the Nazis and ended up creating the future.

In 1943, when the United States learns that Germany is on the verge of a deadly innovation that could tip the balance of the war, the

Overview

Based on an incredible true episode of World War II history, Paul Malmont’s new novel is a rollicking blend of fact and fiction about the men and women who were recruited to defeat the Nazis and ended up creating the future.

In 1943, when the United States learns that Germany is on the verge of a deadly innovation that could tip the balance of the war, the government turns to an unlikely source for help: the nation’s top science fiction writers. Installed at a covert military lab within the Philadelphia Naval Yard are the most brilliant of these young visionaries. The unruly band is led by Robert Heinlein, the dashing and complicated master of the genre. His “Kamikaze Group,” which includes the ambitious genius Isaac Asimov, is tasked with transforming the wonders of science fiction into science fact and unlocking the secrets to invisibility, death rays, force fields, weather control, and other astounding phenomena—and finding it harder than they ever imagined.

When a German spy washes ashore near the abandoned Long Island ruins of a mysterious energy facility, the military begins to fear that the Nazis are a step ahead of Heinlein’s group. Now the oddball team, joined by old friends from the Pulp Era including L. Ron Hubbard (court-martialed for attacking Mexico), must race to catch up. The answers they seek may be locked in the legendary War of Currents, which was fought decades earlier between Nikola Tesla and Thomas Edison. As the threat of an imminent Nazi invasion of America grows more and more possible, events are set in motion that just may revolutionize the future—or destroy it—while forcing the writers to challenge the limits of talent, imagination, love, destiny, and even reality itself.

Blazing at breathtaking speed from forgotten tunnels deep beneath Manhattan to top-secret battles in the North Pacific, and careening from truth to pulp and back again, The Astounding, the Amazing, and the Unknown is a sweeping, romantic epic—a page-turning rocket ship ride through the history of the future.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Malmont returns to the pulp magazine-inspired territory of The Chinatown Death Cloud Peril, this time assembling a clutch of science fiction writers to defeat the Germans in WWII. Based at the Philadelphia Navy Yard, the crew's task is to use their science backgrounds and lively imaginations to tackle such projects as weather control, force fields, and invisibility. Under the leadership of Robert Heinlein and counting Isaac Asimov and L. Sprague de Camp among its members, the Kamikaze Group has few results to show its Navy hosts—until a German spy washes ashore near Nikola Tesla's Wardenclyffe Tower, prompting the government to suspect Nazi interest in Tesla's research. Heinlein and company head out to investigate, picking up L. Ron Hubbard on the way, and what they find leads them on a wild trip toward what might be the ultimate weapon needed to win the war. Malmont lovingly embraces the fact-fiction synthesis employed by the writers he brings to life, and while the narrative is erratically paced and overstuffed with digressions about which character wrote what, it's all lovingly done, and fans of the original pulps will surely enjoy the ride. (July)
From the Publisher
“A rip-roaring adventure . . . Required reading.” The New York Post

“A rollicking adventure . . . Great fun . . . The Astounding is the very definition of a page-turner.” The Onion A.V. Club

“A giddy ride . . . spills, chills and thrills." Time Out New York

“Delightful . . . Madcap . . . It’s so much fun that it virtually defines what light fiction should be.” Library Journal (starred review)

"A 1940s adventure story, full of historical characters and breathtaking near-escapes, this novel will appeal to the little boys in grown-up readers."Newark Star Ledger

“Paul Malmont launched his affectionate and entertaining secret history of twentieth-century American pulp fiction with The Chinatown Death Cloud Peril in 2006. The Astounding, the Amazing, and the Unknown is the second novel in this sequence, and the focus turns to famous science fiction authors including Robert Heinlein and the young Isaac Asimov. Together they tackle the mysteries of Nikola Tesla and winning World War II in an adventure that swoops from romp to chills, from humor to dread. Malmont’s big, lush novel is sly and charming, nostalgic and intriguing fun.” —Katherine Dunn, author of Geek Love

“Paul Malmont’s whirlwind novel celebrates the grand era of science fiction by taking its legendary writers as characters in a wholly original romp through WWII-era technology and intrigue. The Astounding, the Amazing, and the Unknown beams its readers right into its world with all the dazzle of a newly uncovered and improved Tesla transmitter.” —Matthew Pearl, author of The Dante Club

“Watch out, Earthlings! The fathers of science fiction are on the prowl again, trying to save the world from the Nazis in Paul Malmont’s delightful romp. The Astounding, the Amazing, and the Unknown delivers thrills, laughs, intriguing speculation, and even a little romance—much like the best sci-fi. A treat!” —Kevin Baker, author of Strivers Row and Paradise Alley

“Malmont’s funny, zesty, brain-teasing love letter to sf heroes affirms the glory of creativity and science, sacrifice and courage.” Booklist

“A wild trip . . . Malmont lovingly embraces the fact-fiction synthesis employed by the writers he brings to life . . . Fans of the original pulps will surely enjoy the ride.” Publishers Weekly

Library Journal
In 1908, did the mad genius Nikola Tesla, who beat out Edison in the Battle of the Currents (which should it be, AC or DC?), invent but then hide a death ray, a weapon that could blow a fleet of enemy bombers out of the sky in one instant? By 1943, it looks like the Germans have some very nasty tricks up their sleeves. So writer Robert Heinlein, in charge of the "Kamikaze Group," a think tank composed mainly of his fellow science fiction writers—Isaac Asimov, L. Sprague de Camp, and L. Ron Hubbard are among them—sets out to find the truth. If a death ray exists, they're determined to locate it and make it work—for America's side! Time and again, you'll think there couldn't possibly be any more new plot twists in this madcap adventure by the author of The Chinatown Death Cloud Peril and Jack London in Paradise, but five pages later a new one will hit you on the head. VERDICT Anyone who loves the science fiction of the 1930s and 1940s will want to read this delightful romp. It's so much fun that it virtually defines what light fiction should be. [See Prepub Alert, 1/24/11.]—David Keymer, Modesto, CA
Kirkus Reviews

In 1943, alerted to German scientific advances that could turn the tide of World War II, the U.S. government calls upon a group of noted young science-fiction writers to halt the Nazi threat by making imagined phenomena real.

Malmont, whoseChinatown Death Cloud Peril(2006) turned noted science-fiction and pulp writers of the past into intellectual action heroes, returns with a lively tale involving "death rays," secret underground crypts, vanishing objects and mysterious boxes. The writers, led by Robert Heinlein, include L. Ron Hubbard, Isaac Asimov, Walter Gibson and Sprague de Camp. When their personalities and egos aren't clashing, they bond together to investigate secret experiments by the late Nikola Tesla, legendary competitor of Thomas Edison in the so-called War of the Currents. Tesla was testing the long-distance transference of energy when he succeeded in zapping millions of trees in Siberia from the U.S. The writers' pursuits take them from city to city and ultimately to a ship in the North Pacific where things have a way of suddenly disappearing. This book, the title of which was taken from the names of pulp journals, is as much a comedy of brainy errors as it is an adventure. Heinlein, whose tuberculosis ended his Navy career, must contend with the self-fixated Hubbard, who hadn't yet entered his Scientology phase, and the insecure Asimov, who hadn't yet written the first of hundreds of novels. The men all have women problems, Heinlein with his open marriage back in California, and Asimov with his lonely wife in Philadelphia. As close to parody as the novel gets, Malmont maintains a love for science fiction and its ability to bridge "what is known and what is about to be possible." Like his role models, he never sells his story short.

A larkish imagining of sci-fi greats becoming part of one narrative they can't control. A fun novel, and an informative one in tracing the origins of the genre.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781439168936
Publisher:
Simon & Schuster
Publication date:
07/05/2011
Edition description:
Simon & Schuster
Pages:
432
Product dimensions:
6.14(w) x 9.24(h) x 1.27(d)

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
“A rip-roaring adventure . . . Required reading.” The New York Post

“A rollicking adventure . . . Great fun . . . The Astounding is the very definition of a page-turner.” The Onion A.V. Club

“A giddy ride . . . spills, chills and thrills." Time Out New York

“Delightful . . . Madcap . . . It’s so much fun that it virtually defines what light fiction should be.” Library Journal

"A 1940s adventure story, full of historical characters and breathtaking near-escapes, this novel will appeal to the little boys in grown-up readers."Newark Star Ledger

“Paul Malmont launched his affectionate and entertaining secret history of twentieth-century American pulp fiction with The Chinatown Death Cloud Peril in 2006. The Astounding, the Amazing, and the Unknown is the second novel in this sequence, and the focus turns to famous science fiction authors including Robert Heinlein and the young Isaac Asimov. Together they tackle the mysteries of Nikola Tesla and winning World War II in an adventure that swoops from romp to chills, from humor to dread. Malmont’s big, lush novel is sly and charming, nostalgic and intriguing fun.” —Katherine Dunn, author of Geek Love

“Paul Malmont’s whirlwind novel celebrates the grand era of science fiction by taking its legendary writers as characters in a wholly original romp through WWII-era technology and intrigue. The Astounding, the Amazing, and the Unknown beams its readers right into its world with all the dazzle of a newly uncovered and improved Tesla transmitter.” —Matthew Pearl, author of The Dante Club

“Watch out, Earthlings! The fathers of science fiction are on the prowl again, trying to save the world from the Nazis in Paul Malmont’s delightful romp. The Astounding, the Amazing, and the Unknown delivers thrills, laughs, intriguing speculation, and even a little romance—much like the best sci-fi. A treat!” —Kevin Baker, author of Strivers Row and Paradise Alley

“Malmont’s funny, zesty, brain-teasing love letter to sf heroes affirms the glory of creativity and science, sacrifice and courage.” Booklist

“A wild trip . . . Malmont lovingly embraces the fact-fiction synthesis employed by the writers he brings to life . . . Fans of the original pulps will surely enjoy the ride.” Publishers Weekly

Meet the Author


Paul Malmont works in advertising. He lives in New Jersey with his wife and two children. Please visit the author at www.paulmalmont.com. You can follow his blog postings at amazon.com or on Facebook.

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The Astounding, the Amazing, and the Unknown 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Oldfan More than 1 year ago
The Book Report: The Philadelphia Experiment, a real project that took place during WWII and produced a long-lived tale of a whole ship that *poof* vanished from Philadelphia Navy Yard, was seen in Norfolk, Virginia, then *poof* reappeared in Philadelphia in far less time than it would take to sail there, is the backdrop of this fantabulous beast of a Franken-novel. Facts are here aplenty, stitched to the imaginitive suppositions of the author, and the tale enacted by the great science fiction writers of the First Golden Age: Robert Heinlein, ex-Navy man and scientist; Isaac Asimov, unfit for combat service but a chemist earning his PhD at Columbia when roped into the Philadelphia Experiment; Lester Dent, Walter Gibson, L. Ron Hubbard (blech)...and their wives, their lesser lights, and a seemingly endless cast of characters famous if you know who they are, like Lyman Binch, the only person to work for both Tesla and Edison. The author propels his cast from pillar to post and back again. He puts them in incredibly perilous situations, he makes it impossible for them to survive, and then rescues them via last-minute coincidences and harum-scarum action. And in the end, after assembling the dramatis personae via the most unsubtle ruse of them all, he actually solves Tunguska, Wardenclyffe, and the Philadelphia Experiment, with a side order of conspiracy theory, in ~30pp. I'm exhausted. My Review: Fairly happily so, I admit. The dialogue bears down a little much on the side of "As you know, Bob..." and "the reason I've brought you all here tonight is...", but for most people under 60 that really is the only way he can tell his story and make it even faintly believable. What's most appealing about the novel is its true-to-the-pulps feel. I like the way it honors the genre of the dear, dead pulp science fiction mags of the 30s through the 60s by using--with a wryly arched eyebrow--their every convention, technique, and trope, then with a short coda, bringing the modern sensibility int harmony with the pulpish piffle that has quite enjoyably rollicked on before. Mr. Malmont sent me a very nicely inscribed ARC of the novel when I won it in a contest on his website. It struck me that he's a lot like the old pulp writers. He's an advertising copywriter who clearly loves popular fiction in the SF genre, and is at home telling tales to entertain you, his reader, as he entertains himslef. He's good at evoking mood and atmosphere. He's happiest when busiest, too. My god...wouldn't surprise me a bit to find out he was a robot. o.0
Anonymous More than 1 year ago