Thursday, June 5, 2014

Long Before Buck Rogers and James Bond There Was . . . Leslie Gardiner?

By Robert Allen (Allen Robert Dodd, 1887-1947).
Dodd, Mead.
1916. 366 pages.
Online HERE, HERE, HERE, and HERE.

Yea, verily, there is no new thing under the sun.

About the author we learn:
His paternal grand-father was the famous publisher, Moses Woodruff Dodd, of the firm that became "Dodd, Mead & Company," in New York City. According to "Obituary Record of Graduates of Yale University Deceased during the Year 1947-1948," Allen experienced "Death due to a gunshot wound." — FIND A GRAVE
A reviewer on neatly summarizes this book:
Despite some minor flaws, this was an interesting read. Borrowing slightly from the famous story of "The Four Feathers," it's a prototype of what's now the firmly-established genre of military sf. The novel is set in the 1960s or '70s, in which the Great War was followed by a long period of peace. A three-way global balance of power has evolved between Europe and the Americas, a Muslim confederation, and the Asian powers. 
The International Police are the guardians of the European/American alliance, a bit like today's Interpol, with quasi-military powers and a mission which also includes espionage. On the eve of the West carrying out a popular plan to drastically cut its defenses, the head of the International Police gets wind of a plot by the Asians to launch a sneak attack, once the West has disarmed.
Although the method by which the International Police agents manage to smuggle some incriminating documents out of China in the first part of the book is quite improbable—unless the Asian conspirators are complete idiots—the action picks up shortly afterward and from then on the story clips along at a good pace.
One thing I found interesting is that once the West declares war on the perfidious orientals, the fighting takes place in China, and the battles, strategy and tactics are clearly based on the Russo-Japanese War, which took place a little over ten years previous to the publication of this story. With the addition of a new element: Air power. 
If, like me, you're a sucker for any story with fightin' dirigibles and plenty of derring-do, this'll be right up your alley. — H. E. Parmer
Here are brief excerpts from two longer contemporary reviews:
Looking into the future for a generation or more Mr. Allen tells a spirited story of what may happen sometime near or after the middle of this century in the tangling up of international affairs and personal destinies . . . —  Florence Finch Kelly, "Firstlings in Fiction," THE BOOKMAN (May 1916; Jump To page 324, bottom right)
[NOTE: The next review reveals too much of the plot.] We confess something of a prejudice against stories dealing with the future.  . . . the action [in this book] is supposed to take place about fifty years after the close of the present war [World War I] . . . The story is not free from the faults which pursue narratives of its kind; but it is told skilfully and spiritedly, and holds the attention of even a prejudiced reader. — "Current Fiction," THE NATION (July 27, 1916)

Categories: Spy fiction, Science fiction

No comments:

Post a Comment