Rebels of the Red Planet — Charles L. Fontenay (1961)


Publisher: Ace Books

First Ace Edition, 1961

Cover Art: Uncredited (Please leave a comment if you know)

Plot Synopsis (of cover): Burt Chochem was the Manliest Man on Mars. He could deadlift a Skreezix skull in 3.5 G, an all-time Colony IV record. He wrestled Broopaks to the ground as if they were children. In fact, to look at him (and ignore his curiously hairless legs), Burt Chochem was a perfect specimen. Only… well, Burt is a second-generation Martian, born to two researchers who had emigrated from Earth with the first colonial migration. Whereas Dr. and Mrs. Dr. Chochem were some of the greatest minds of their time, Burt’s intellectual endowments were inversely proportional to his intimate endowments. So, though Burt’s manhood could also lift a Skreezix skull in 3.5 G, Burt had the cognitive skills of a wet mop. His girl, Candy von Green, wasn’t particularly bright either, but she, at least, refrained from drooling absentmindedly. Their scholarly shortcomings did not distress them—Candy and Burt were in love, and porked on the regular, to the dismay of the Martian neo-eugenicists. One afternoon, Burt took Candy on a less-than-scenic drive through the rusty Martian desert. “Bu-uuurt,” Candy groaned, “I’m bo-ooooored! Can’t we do something more fun?” Burt asked, “Duuuuh, like what, Candy?” Candy replied, “Like, I dunno, something that ISN’T staring at a bunch of red rocks in a desert with, like, no air or whatever?” Burt thought about it. He knit his brow, and a globule of drool impacted the lower hemisphere of his glass helmet. “Oh!” exclaimed Burt, excitement in his eyes, “I have an idea!” He pulled the car over, and they both exited the cabin. Standing in the arid wastes, Burt said, “Okay, Candy. Turn around, count to ten, then look.” Candy giggled and complied. After having to start over once or twice, Candy finally made it up to ten and turned back to face Burt. He had stripped off his space suit, down to his underpants, which he was struggling to remove. Burt’s Bunyanesque erection bobbed up and down in time with his pained gasping as he struggled against both the thin Martian atmosphere and the elastic on his BVDs. Candy looked on in horror. Two passing Martian neo-eugenicists looked too, from the cockpit of their hovercopter. Though fully capable of rendering assistance, they chose instead to fly away. They took the rest of the day off, as they felt they had already contributed enough to the discipline for an afternoon.

Relatively Irrelevant Inside Text: I was afraid of this book at first. Fontenay starts off using some ridiculous prose—”But only a sea could so brood with the memory of aeons. Only a sea, lying so silent beneath the high skies, could hint the mystery of life still behind its barren veil.”—and that shit terrifies me. I do not want to read another Metal Monster, no thank you, not for all the awkward adjectives and hackneyed hyperbole in the world. To my joy, he drops it, and instead moves on to tell a pretty great story. Fans of seeing capitalist swine revealed for the greedy bourgeois children that they SO OBVIOUSLY ARE (Proletarier aller Länder vereinigt Euch!) have something to look forward to. There are also some character names that are so godawful as to wrap right back around to being beautiful. “Goat Hennessey.” “Maya Cara Nome.” “Dark Kensington.” Fuckin’ DARK KENSINGTON. What the fuck is he, a British chocolate varietal? Anyway, it’s worth reading if you like the sort of Cold War introspection common to the early 1960s sci-fi set. Or if you like swooning female protagonists.

Rating: 8.7 Diaphanous Obese Janitors

Questions for Critical Cover-Viewing:

  • Do people seriously not wear anything but underpants beneath their space suits, or is that a diaper?
  • Is he stripping off his space suit to protest the gendered space suit coloring convention? Do they even HAVE Tumblr on Mars?
  • How can someone slip a hingeless fishbowl onto their head without ruining their hairdo?

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8 thoughts on “Rebels of the Red Planet — Charles L. Fontenay (1961)

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