Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Sci-Fi Spy

I know.  I know that I am not even close to finishing Cryptonomicon (on page 338), but one of the books I bought at Printers Row Lit Fest just keeps calling to me.  Its title and cover art just keep promising such pulpy, hokey fun that I couldn’t resist it and I read the first few pages before bed last night.

The name of the book is Agent Of T.E.R.R.A. Book 1: The Flying Saucer Gambit.  The principal protagonist of the narrative seems to be one Hannibal Fortune, special agent for T.E.R.R.A.  What exactly T.E.R.R.A. is beyond being “the good guys” is unclear to me as of yet but I’m assuming they are a “supreme headquarters for an international espionage/law enforcement division.”  It is the year 2572 and one of Fortune’s fellow agents has been killed in a double-cross, just as he was about to deliver the plans for a new secret weapon deployed by EMPIRE.  Again, I have no idea what EMPIRE is other than “the bad guys,” something akin to Cobra or SPECTER I’m assuming.  But the plot sickens as Fortune discovers that EMPIRE intends to enslave Earth by going back in time to change the future.  In fact, the evildoers are traversing the 20th century globe in their “skimmer” ships that look remarkably like flying saucers.  This gives rise to the UFO sightings of the time.  Our hero and his shape-shifting little sidekick creature, time-travel back to 1966 to get the job done.  Little do they suspect that there is a double agent in T.E.R.R.A.’s midst.  And there’s a talking monkey.

Copyright information on the inside gives the publication date as indeed being 1966.  This was the height of the “spy craze” in entertainment.  James Bond, Our Man Flint, and The Man From U.N.C.L.E. were big hits.  In fact, Larry Maddock, author of the book, had originally pitched the plot as a story idea for the aforementioned TV series, but it was rejected as being “too sci-fi.”  Interested in cashing in on the secret agent wave, Ace Books published The Flying Saucer Gambit as part of a four-book T.E.R.R.A. series.  Now I am not expecting great literature from this by any stretch of the imagination, but it sure does look fun.  And it’s got a talking monkey!!  My crotchet for pulpy goodness may well be my undoing one of these days.

For now, however, Mr. Neal Stephenson is expecting me to finish what I started.

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