Publisher: Lancer Books
First Lancer Edition, 1970
Cover Art: Gene Szafran
Plot Synopsis (of cover): Eugarpskire of the Conquering Lizard People was beside himself with excitement. It would be his first interplanetary conquest, and months of preparation were finally coming to fruition. The Earthlings were clearly technologically inferior, having only traveled so far as their own moon, which minimized the need for complicated siege tactics and expensive war machines. No, Eugarpskire had been most concerned with overcoming the difficulty in bending the Earthlings to the will of their new alien overlords. Eugarpskire, however, was very clever —utilizing the Earthlings’ own digital communications network, he had posed as one of their own. By communicating with young, naive members of the species, he had been able to gain a deep understanding of human culture which he would make use of in his psychological campaign to subjugate mankind. In fact, his information gathering had yielded unexpected fruit—Eugarpskire received word through one of his Earthling sources that their home would be empty of adult witnesses that very evening, creating a perfect opportunity to land in a populous area under cover of darkness. He would establish a base of operations and attack the Earthlings from within one of their own urban centers, rendering the use of large-scale nuclear ordnance on their part impractical. As Eugarpskire set his ship down in a darkened backyard, conditions appeared ideal. He exited his ship and entered the house through the backdoor, only to be startled by sudden and unexpected illumination. A man’s voice, soothing but authoritative, confronted the shocked alien. “Good evening. Why don’t you have a seat right over there?” Eugarpskire, uncertain of how to react, did as he was bid. The man continued, “You certainly came in here like you owned the place. What are you here for?” Eugarpskire made a non-committal gesture, uncertain of his situation. Was he exposed before the invasion even began? “You don’t know, huh? Well, that’s okay, because I have the chat logs right here.” The man retrieved a thick printout. “In a conversation with someone identifying himself as an 11-year-old boy, you ask, ‘Have you ever been made subservient to a superior species?’ ‘Do you feel that your government’s military readiness is sufficient to repel a hostile invasion force?’ ‘Do you like to be dominated?’ I have to say, these are incredibly inappropriate things to be chatting about with an 11-year-old.” Eugarpskire was frozen. He had been found out! But how? “Did you bring anything with you?” the man asked. Out of confused fear more than anything, Eugarpskire reached into his satchel. He placed his laser pistol on the counter, and, next to it, a six-pack of Mike’s Hard Lemonade. The man sighed. “Well, I’m gonna have to tell you, I’m Chris Hansen with Dateline NBC, and we’re doing a story on grown Lizardmen who take advantage of underdeveloped planets over the Internet.”
Relatively Irrelevant Inside Text: I love Lizardmen. They’re a great alien archetype, a real classic. Then again, everyone loves Lizardmen, don’t they? I mean, shoot, even the Queen is secretly reptilian. That said, as cool as they are, people seem not to use my cold-blooded besties as much as they should. Imagine my delight at Beastchild not only utilizing bipedal snake people, but featuring one as protagonist. I squeal, I tell you, in joy. And Beastchild is well-executed. Its origins as a short story aren’t so much in evidence, as the book doesn’t feel lousy with filler. It does, perhaps, shine through in an anticlimactic ending that seems more an afterthought than anything else. Still, this was great—Koontz is superb at building suspense, making this book easy to binge. If you’re into post-apocalyptic stuff, it’s pretty much right up your alley. There’s also some fun bio-tech, both for the betterment of lizardkind and for… you know… genocide (think probiotics, but instead of helping you digest things they eat away at the walls of your nuclear bunker and leave a glowing green pit of death). Read it if only to discover how the special friendship between an 11-year-old boy and his horrifying Lizardman pal can inspire positive change in your own life. Have you hugged a Gila monster today?
Rating: 9.1 Frozen Birds on a Line
Questions for Critical Cover-Viewing:
* Do people not run background checks on babysitters anymore?
* How is it possible to look that nonchalant with a reptilian alien that close to your exposed butt?
* Is it possible that the boy got naked because the Lizardman made it look like fun, or is that wishful thinking and is this cover irredeemably creepy?