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, whose Chinatown 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.