A moldering relic from Hubbard's pre-Dianetics days, when he was a prince of the pulps: a ripely surrealistic horror...



A moldering relic from Hubbard's pre-Dianetics days, when he was a prince of the pulps: a ripely surrealistic horror novel--about a man plagued by four missing hours--finally receiving hard-cover publication after first appearing in Unknown magazine in 1940 and then as a mass-market paperback in 1970. Like much of Hubbard's pulp work, this foreshadows Scientology with its emphasis on mental experience--in this case, the inner-dimensional adventures of Jim Lowry, professor of ethnology at Atworthy College. Things go awry for Lowry after he publishes an article positing devils and demons as a human invention. Ordered into the college president's office, he's fired for writing ""a cheap and idiotic"" article: far worse, after he pays a visit to his pal Tommy (who insists that ""the world is an evil, capricious place""), he steps outside to find that night has fallen: he's lost four hours--and his hat. Lowry's wife suspects a flare-up of malaria fever, but Lowry soon learns better, as he sets out to find his hat and plunges into a Dali-esque landscape featuring alien vistas peopled by weird beings--including a crone who warns Lowry that if he finds his hat and missing hours, he ""will die."" Lowry wakes up back on campus--only to fall into greater confusion as Hubbard yanks out the reality rug completely, tweaking Lowry's world so that objects shift without reason; a haft-seen being shadows his moves; a message appears declaring him the ""Entity""; and, ultimately, all creation is revealed as animate only when Lowry attends to it. What's all this metaphysical mayhem about? Not a payback by demons, as Hubbard suggests in red-herrings throughout; the answer lies in a novel, mundane (and arbitrary) twist ending in which Lowry, horribly, finally finds his hat. No doubt a shocker in 1940; but despite flash-dash writing, the quaint plotline and its welter of portentous symbolism seem just plain hokey today, belying the title and betraying its roots in pulp and humbug.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1990


Page Count: -

Publisher: Bridge

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1990