Tuesday, March 8, 2011

1960’s Ace Double novel: The Caves of Mars by Emil Petaja

The Caves of Mars (1965), a novel by American science fiction writer Emil Petaja.

Paperback original (New York: Ace Books, 1965), 125 p., #M-133, 45¢. Cover art by Alex Schomburg. There is no promotional piece on the back cover because this is an Ace Double novel, bound with Space Mercenaries by A. Bertram Chandler. So, here’s the blurb from the inside of the front cover:

Beware of the Universal Panacea.

Ric Coltor had lost an arm in an interplanetary exploration. For a spaceman at any other time, that would have meant the end of his career. But not with the marvelous Martian Panacea in existence. Extracted from a fungus found only on the Red Planet, it promised mankind perfect health and longer life, for it grew back internal organs, conquered disease, and could even grow back arms.

So Ric went to one of the M-P colonies to become whole again and discovered a defect in that new UtopiaM-P not only gave its users glowing good health but it also gave them a fanatical devotion to the man who administered it, Dr. Morton Krill. A devotion that was so all-encompassing that any man who received it could easily become dictator of two planets if he were twisted enough to desire that. Dr. Krill was.

David Pringle, in The Ultimate Guide to Science Fiction (1990), calls The Caves of Mars “an ill-written, low-pressure space opera, in which the maguffin is a drug made from a Martian fungus.”

Surprisingly, noted SF&F critic and Ace Double novel aficionado Rich Horton has not reviewed The Caves of Mars!

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