The Sleep Eaters — John Lymington (1963)

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Publisher: Macfadden Books

Second Macfadden Edition, 1971

Cover Art: John Faragasso

Plot Synopsis (of cover): The third Martian medical research saucer was late in meeting its sister ships, who had agreed beforehand to congregate in high Mars orbit. They planned to share the results of their abduction-based research before presenting it to the Martian Medical Board. That the third ship was late was atypical of a Martian medical team, but, in this case, not unexpected. Dr. Vorloxx was new to his profession, and, it was suspected, had acquired both his medical degree and prestigious extraplanetary position through nepotism and bribery—the two more experienced physician-captains weren’t surprised by his tardiness. Dr. Vorloxx’s ship pulled into communication range with the other two, and he rang into the conference call. “Hiya, fellows!” he bellowed, “What’s the haps?” The other two doctors, unable to look at each other, nevertheless gave identical frowns. The eldest physician barked, “Well, ‘Doctor’ Vorloxx, since you took the longest time to get here, you’ve obviously had more time to polish your results. Perhaps you’d like to begin our conference by sharing them. What were the results of the mind probe?” Dr. Vorloxx, starting to sweat, responded, “Ah, yes. The mind probe. Curious thing, that. You know, I think this species’ biology is incompatible with our mind probe technology. I couldn’t even fit the snake into his ear.” The second eldest physician almost choked. “Vorloxx,” he said, “that’s the RECTAL probe. The MIND probe is the one with the helmet!” Dr. Vorloxx, flushed, replied, “Huh. Guess that’s why I couldn’t get the helmet thing all the way into his anus.” The eldest doctor sighed, “So, essentially, you did nothing.” Dr. Vorloxx perked up. “Oh, not at all! As per our intergovernment medical treaty, I reshaped the subject’s body into an ideal form! To make up for the, er, damage and inconvenience, he has been remade into a real beefcake! Perfect specimen of mankind!” The second eldest physician, if he had an eyebrow, would have cocked it. “Vorloxx, if you were unable to probe his mind, how were you able to ascertain the correct physical form?” Dr. Vorloxx beamed with pride. “Easy,” crowed the young doctor, “I simply used the template by which the Earthlings compare themselves to perfection. Recall, if you will, from their television transmissions, the doll named Ken?” The eldest doctor replied, “Er, Vorloxx, are you aware that the template you’ve selected does not possess the standard Earthling reproductive equipment?” Dr. Vorloxx, now sweating quite a lot, hurriedly replied, “Of course I know that! Of course! One moment, please.” Dr. Vorloxx discreetly pressed a button on his console. With faux surprise, he exclaimed, “Oh, jeez, guys! There’s been an explosive decompression in my medical bay! Seems that all the evide- uhh, that the poor, completely-not-deformed Earthling has been sucked into the vacuum of space! Oops, look at the time! See ya later!” Dr. Vorloxx punched his engines, feeling only slightly less ashamed than he did drunk.

Relatively Irrelevant Inside Text: So, as a novel, this is incredibly crafted. It’s got an amazing atmosphere to it, quite unlike anything I’ve ever read. There’s a quiet British absurdity combined with an off-kilter paranoia, like if you shot Twin Peaks and One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest in rural England and then got the reels mixed together. There’s a curious sexual perversion snaking its way throughout, but, instead of seeming distasteful, it adds to the driving insanity of its protagonist, further confusing a man being driven off the deep end as he’s experiencing alien nightmares. Here’s the catch—the alien nightmares the protagonist is experiencing are all portents of an inevitable global race war, and the rhetoric is very authentic-sounding. I’ve read a lot in this genre and in this time period, and this borders on the uncomfortable even as a product of the late 1960s. You know when you’ve got your Gran or Gramps over for Thanksgiving, and they start to use the pronoun “Them” insidiously as a pejorative? Yes, like that, and quite a lot of it. I’m giving this disclaimer so’s potential readers should know what they’re getting into—there’s no need for a spoiler alert, as it’s a common theme throughout the novel. Frantic Googling has not revealed John Lymington as a secret shill for the National Front, so I will assume (and rate on the assumption) that the discomfort was an intentional plot device.

Rating: 8.8 Probationary Points Until I Discover That The Author Was Actually Hitler

Questions for Critical Cover-Viewing:

  • Is there a science to how much groin shading is required to imply that a dong is extant instead of implying that a vagina is extant, and where can Faragasso take the correspondence course?
  • What essential juices were the inspiration for this artwork, and should the artist see a doctor?
  • Though we’ve all been drunk and woken up in strange places, does this fellow take the cake?

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