Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Retro reviews: West Point graduate William James Roe’s 1887 Mars novel Bellona’s Husband

Bellona's Husband: A Romance. By Hudor Genone.
12mo, 75 cents; by mail, 85 cents.

The author of Inquirendo Island has tried his hand again at the most difficult of all forms of fiction, and with a measure of success which certainly indicates special aptitude in him. Bellona's Husband is an account of the surprising adventures of certain mortals who discovered a means of traveling through space, and thereby conveyed themselves to the planet Mars. It must be said that there is a decided feebleness of invention in the ascription to the Mars people of the English language, especially as this astounding circumstance is not explained in any way. The difference between Martial life and our own, however, is great. The conditions of existence are in fact reversed, everybody there being horn old and growing younger as they proceed, until the cradle and the tomb are almost convertible terms. Of course, this is a difficult conception to work out, and the author's method is not free from the defect of clumsiness. -- N.Y. Tribune. 

Bellona's Husband, by Hudor Genone (Lippincott), is a long, elaborate, and exhaustive effort to be funny. The hero invests $5,000 in a remarkable machine of the Keely Motor kind, except for the fact that unlike the Keely Motor if does go, landing the occupants on the planet Mars. Then follows an extravagant burlesque detailing the supposed events of life as it is lived on Mars. The inhabitants, it seems, are born at an advanced age and gradually grow young. This is the only good point to the story, and in the hands of a Stockton the idea might have been made delightful. Those who have seen Miss Susan Hale's bright little extravaganza, "The Elixir of Life," acted by herself and her brother, Dr. E. E. Hale, know what the subject is capable of. But in the hands of Hudor Genone, the plot becomes coarse, disagreeable, and flat. Bellona is a heroine without a father, her mother, as the hero is facetiously informed, having been born a widow. The visitor to Mars, though he has left a wife and three children on earth, proposes to become the third husband of Bellona while dwelling on Mars. If all this is funny, any one who wants it is welcome to the fun. 

Hudor Genone was a pseudonym used by writer William James Roe (1843-1921), who graduated from West Point in 1867. According to the 1922 annual report of the Association of the Graduates of the United States Military Academy, Bellona’s Husband was “intended to demonstrate the universatility of human nature and the absurdity of so-called materialism.”

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