The Metal Monster — A. Merritt (1920)

20150803_224549Publisher: Avon Books

Third Avon Edition, 1957

Cover Art: Uncredited, but the signature reads “Powers” according to ISFDB (comment if you know more)

Plot Synopsis (of cover): Perry the Steel Colossus would never be one of the “cool” giant monsters at Kaiju High School. He didn’t have Godzilla’s muscles, or Mothra’s rich parents. In fact, Perry was, no two ways about it, a nerd. The engineers who created him were obviously not striving for style or function—his pointy outer casing and freakish gaping face earned him weekly swirlies from Rodan and Gorgo, and, more days than not, King Kong would steal his lunch money. But now, Perry was in some real hot water. At his bi-monthly D&D game, he had wagered some of his best Magic cards against Gadzooky that he would ask his long-time crush, the 50 Foot Woman, out on a date, and today was the day. Freshly polished, and with an armful of pointy Platonic solids (his engineers had assured him that these would be suitable gifts for a gargantuan teenage girl), he approached his prospect from behind. His hands were sweaty with condensation, his internal gears grinding in apprehension, but he finally spoke. “Gee, uh, 50 Foot Woman? You sure do look swell today. I got you these pointy Platonic solids.” He tried to hand them to her, but her back was still turned. “P-please?” he stuttered, “I made these just f-for you, 50 Foot Woman-senpai.” “Is somebody talking to me?” the girl asked the air in front of her. “I could swear I heard someone speaking. But that’s impossible, because the only thing around is a metal Freshman geek with rusty armpits.” Perry tried again to give his gift to his crush, but the condensation on his clumsy hands was being made worse by the stressful emissions from his tailpipe. He lost his grip, scattering spheroids and pyramids all over the hallway. “50 Foot Woman,” he squealed, “Do you want t-to come with me a-and…” Perry paused to take a breath from his inhaler. He mustered his confidence and finished, “…come with me and destroy Tokyo together‽” However, as nervous as he was, he concluded his thought much louder than he had meant to. The 50 Foot Woman was joined by several other cute 16-year-old monstrosities from across the hallway in her laughter. Perry, who had difficulty sometimes recognizing facial cues, laughed along with them. That is, until Orochi the Eight-Headed Dragon threw him up against a locker. “Yo, you hitting on my girl, brah?” Each of Orochi’s necks had a popped Polo collar, and each head had a backwards baseball cap on it. “I think it’s time someone’s face met with my fire breath! And then with the toilet!” Perry sighed, accepting this familiar fate and mentally outlining the evening’s LiveJournal post. (Feeling: Sad. Listening To: My Immortal…)

Relatively Irrelevant Inside Text: I’d like to start with an apology. It usually doesn’t take me so long to finish a book this short. Then again, books this short aren’t usually collections of florid descriptions. Seriously, Merritt, you’re dead and you’re probably still using fifteen words when you could be using none. Not only does the author take way too much time to describe every fucking thing in the general vicinity with nauseating detail, he does so while providing little to no context regarding how his characters feel about what’s happening around them. Seriously, an assault by metallic cubes with thousands of tiny eyes upon you and your friends, your buddy’s sister is mind-controlled by a nearly nude giantess, and you are magnetically adhered to living metal—that doesn’t warrant more emotional context than a single reference to the situation being terrifying, but this field of flowers is pretty, so let’s spend an entire goddamned chapter on it (and also find time to insert a servile Chinese stereotype in the key of Maza of the Moon—what is it with 20s sci fi writers and Asian people?). At times you forget that there are characters, which, honestly, if you were reminded, you still mightn’t care for all the lack of development they’re given (you might call that a hallmark of sci fi pre-1940, not necessarily a specific failing of this novel, but Merritt makes me not want to give him the benefit of the doubt). This was a slog. It’s apparently the second in a series of books carrying the same protagonist, its predecessor being The Moon Pool. I’m not going to read The Moon Pool. I’m not going to read anything ever again unless I can be assured that the adjective count is less than half of the word count, unless it’s porn. And even then, there better not be any flowers in it.

Rating: 4.2 Endlessly Described Poppy Fields

Questions for Critical Cover-Viewing:

* Is it even possible to soundproof a robot from the outside?

* Is the woman’s… er… dress inspired by the Halloween prank it resembles?

* Is the robot’s apparent shock due to a) the near nakedness of his female companion, b) the unexpected emotional arousal of which he’d not yet known himself capable, or c) the activation of his hitherto undiscovered mechanical phallus?


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