Sunday, September 4, 2016

Which Way Books #9: Creatures of the Dark

After enduring a cynical update of what passes for a classic within this genre it's time to return to Which Way Books, where the low expectations always soften the impact. Yes, no more Edward Packard, instead the literary Alan Smithee that is R.G. Austin with some of that semi-competent efficiency that I've come to expect from this series. Today's subject probably couldn't be any more derivative and back then that's just how we liked it. Create your own lukewarm "homage" to classical mythology and add some lazy wackiness here and there...that's just crazy enough to work. Yeah, this is going to be great.

So close to creating the "puke rainbow" in 1982, so very close.

As suggested by the high-quality introductory paragraph this book is the spiritual successor to Lost in a Strange Land although this connection only exists in the low-energy premise. Once again I get swept away into a land of monsters and magic. Only now, instead of pursuing the safe and sane hobby of exploring lava floes (this bag of fine dust is all that remains of your child) my highly sensible solo voyage across the Pacific is interrupted by a storm and a plunge into a "black abyss. First, this sounds very familiar, just with most of the irrelevant details mercilessly stripped away so we can do this thang as fast as possible. Second, sick prose game from author "John Smith" here. 

From the maker of good movies comes this dud.

Anyway, we all know the drill by now: I'm in a strange land that may or may not include darkness and, possibly, even some sort of creatures loosely affiliated with said absence of light. So, naturally, the first choice is between a town or a city. Is this some sort of personality test disguised as poorly written eighties kid's entertainment? Well, if you must know I suffer from the City Boy Blues, so town it is.

As I walk through the forest toward the more intimate population center I get lassoed. Not this nonsense again. There better be some Cossacks at the other end of this rope-trick shuck or I'm not going to be happy. 

It's aliens. Why yes, this does make me rage, thanks for asking.

This, but with less artistic merit.

As you probably already guessed the little green men think I'm a wizard. Despite a blanket denial of this charge they demand I "prove it." Yeah. Come on hotshot, let's see you prove a negative. Should be easy for the kind of person who gets swept off boats and blunders into looped hemp products. I try to logic my way out of this by suggesting I would use my wizard powers against them if I actually had any but this proves unconvincing to the galactic wanderers and I'm dragged off to their spaceship where I'll presumably be tortured and executed. Wasn't really expecting another inquisition, especially one involving saucer people, but then again I suppose no ever expects them.

And that's all. Even by Which Way standards this one was a disappointment. All we needed was some quicksand and maybe a sinister dwarf and just about every element I dislike from these would have been present. Incredibly, this finishes the first ten books from this series. One day soon I may finally complete the set, realize I've reviewed the entire Which Way series and then hang my head, sobbing bitter tears and sinking into crushing despair. 

Aaron Zehner is the author of "The Foolchild Invention" available in paperback and e-book format. Read free excerpts here and here. 

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