Wordy Wednesday – Earth’s Last Citadel by C.L. Moore and Henry Kuttner
The first sentence of the little blurb on the back of the book got me all excited to read this book.
“Torn from the Twentieth Century by the super-science of a master being from an alien galaxy, four adventurers find themselves at Carcasilla, EARTH’S LAST CITADEL, a billion years from now.”
Holy fuck of course I had to read this. That sounds amazing!
Even the cover gets me pumped up! Look at that guy in the blue shirt. Is he pointing at that castle? Is he shaking his fist at it? Is he threatening the moon? I think he might be, the moon looks like it’s trying to hide behind the castle.
And look at his friend, sprawled out on the ground like he’s had a few too many at the bar. The guy standing on the far left – is he doing the Robot? And a dame in a skirt! She’s all, “What the fuck is this?”
Man, I could not wait to read this book. But I got the old switcheroo – it’s not very good.
Earth’s Last Citadel is a high-action book. There are some fun sci-fi concepts here, but nothing ever really pans out. And there could have been reams more interaction between the characters.
A Special Intelligence officer for the Allied Forces in WWII, Alan Drake is escorting a scientist, Sir Colin, across Tunisia. They are tracked by a bounty hunter working for the Nazis and her Nazi pal – Karen’s the bounty hunter, her friend is Mike Smith.
Drake and Colin see a meteor fall to the ground, and they investigate (it’s on their way, I guess?). But at the site, they find a perfectly shaped egg-shaped thing. Karen and Mike catch up with Drake and Colin at this point.
Then the egg-shaped meteor flashes with light, and the four people find themselves calmly walking into it. They have no control over their own bodies! Oh no!
When they wake up later, a billion years have passed. They emerge from the ship to find a ruined Earth.
This scenario is perfect for some inter-character development. But the book avoids all that bothersome nonsense and has everyone fall in line. Nazis and an American and a Scottish scientist, all working together in harmony.
It isn’t that their ability to work together is unbelievable. It just isn’t ever addressed. The book tries to make Karen out to be an adventurer rather than a Nazi – she just worked for them for the wild lifestyle, she isn’t evil! But Mike Smith? Dude’s a Nazi. The book just sort of shrugs and moves along.
It’s a short book – my copy is under 130 pages – and the plot isn’t bad. There are fountains of youth, telepathic demi-gods, an alien that has no physical body which is harmed by sound, and a little bit of that good old-fashioned two-fisted American justice I dearly love in these Golden Age sci-fi pulp novels.
(I’ve waited so long to use that clip.)
But even for a sci-fi pulp novel, this one falls a little short. I’m surprised it took two people to write this. No one even punches an alien. What gives?
It isn’t all bad. The tone that the book builds is a nice blend of sci-fi and horror. There’s some brief use of an anti-gravity corridor, though it feels unnecessary. Some barbarians live under Carcasilla, the future city, and how they stay safe is kind of neat.
But I only liked one character, and I’m not sure if it is a poor reflection on me or the authors that it’s Mike Smith, the Nazi. He’s the only one that actually shows any weaknesses. He is terrified of the alien that hunts them because he can’t fight it. It isn’t physical, but it can feed off of human minds. Mike is helpless before its powers and he knows it. Only Mike acts like a human in the novel. So, I guess good on you, authors. You made the Nazi the sympathetic character.
Overall, Earth’s Last Citadel is a rather pedestrian Golden Age sci-fi novel. If you’re looking to burn a few hours and have nothing better to read, go for it. Just know what you’re getting into.
Posted on October 3, 2012, in Wordy Wednesdays and tagged Alan Drake, alien punching, Earth's Last Citadel, Karen Martin, master being from an alien galaxy, Mike Smith, Nazis, science fiction, Sir Colin, super-science. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.