Tuesday, October 18, 2022

Walter R. Brooks, Freddy and the Men from Mars (1954)

This one is only related to Freddy and the Space Ship in a very loose way: Uncle Ben's space ship IS a thing, but it doesn't play much of a role in the proceedings; you could fairly easily lose it and just pretend that the previous book never happened.  The presence of men from Mars is kind of incidental.  So Herb Garble—the villain of Freddy and the Bean Home News and other books—has found some Martians!  They're on display at Mr. Boomschmidt's circus.  Only, as it turns out, not.  It's actually just Simon and some of his gang disguised as Martians (that's them on the cover; the real Martians are more spider-like).  But what's this?  Then REAL Martians land, conveniently enough!  Don't worry; they're friendly.  But Freddy & Co still have to deal with the rats and Garble.  Also, they've kidnapped two of Charles' and Henrietta's children, Chiquita and, uh, Little Broiler.  They're worried about them being eaten, but as far as the latter goes, nominative determinism, people!  You might as well have named him McNugget.  Also, I believe this is the first we've ever heard of the two of them having a son.  I think the idea previously was that it was all daughters, leaving Charles figuratively and literally henpecked.

Time seems to be compressing a bit here, as we are informed that only “a year or so earlier the animals had formed the First Animal Republic;” if this is only supposed to take place a year after Freddy the Politician--man oh man.

I mean, this book is kinda good.  I got into it, ultimately, even if I do miss the more restrained books in the series.  The conflict is well-developed, although I'll never stop being sort of annoyed at rats having to be  universally villainous.  It ain't fair!  Oh well.  There's one odd bit where all the other rats have been whisked away on the Martians' flying saucer to Montana, but one remains: “By the time he got back to the Big Woods the rocket had vanished into the sky.  What became of him after that it is too early to know.  No doubt, however, that he will be heard from again.”  Man, that's some weird foreshadowing of a kind that one just doesn't see in these books.  It is anyone's guess whether it will lead anywhere.

One good thing is that it does kind of treat the Martians like actual aliens, not just reskinned humans.  They're given names like Two-Clicks—the sounds they make to identify themselves—and they rarely speak, and it's generally understood that they're only talking among themselves in their own language.  But the spiders can talk to them!

They developed one way and we developed another.  I don't know how they got to Mars.  But it's the old spider language we're talking—Webb and I learned it when we were little.  It's like Latin in your schools.

I mean, why do you assume that the Martians travelled from Earth to Mars in the distant past, as opposed to the spiders having traveled from Mars.  I do have it on fairly good authority that Spiders from Mars are a thing.  But anyway, this is more interesting than you might expect as Brooks traverses this unfamiliar milieu.  There are no further traces of colonialist attitudes, thankfully.  In fact, Brooks get in  a not-bad dig in at ugly-American types:

Mrs. Peppercorn, like many other people, thought that in order to be understood she would have to shout, and because his English was probably bad, she thought he would understand if she spoke bad English too.  Nobody knows why people do this in addressing a foreigner, but it is a fact that they always do.  Some people even talk baby talk to them.

All right all right.  The only thing I'm really not a big fan of here is the introduction of Mr. Boomschmidt's brother, Hercules (frequently referred to as “Here”--I thought it was a typo, but it kept recurring; does Brooks pronounce it “Here-cules?”).  He's a big dumb guy and subject to pretty tedious big-dumb-guy jokes.  We're told he looks exactly like his brother only bigger, but apparently wires got crossed somewhere, as Wiese at the beginning of chapter six draws him as an offensive Asian caricature.  Weird.

Anyway, that's enough babbling about that.  Next, we shall see how the Martians do when it comes to America's Pastime ("you mean racism?"  "No, the other one."  "Oh, gun violence, then?"  "No, the other—oh, forget it").


Blogger Thomas pontificated to the effect that...

Maybe "Here" is a recurring transcription error for "Herc"? Seems plausible.

7:45 AM  

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