Plasmagoria

Perry Rhodan, First Administrator of the Solar Imperium and Peacelord of the Universe, is having a bad day. A trader ship under his purview has been hit with a mysterious epidemic, his radar systems have spotted an unwelcome alien spacecraft nearby and a newspaper reporter is stoking dissent against his peacekeeping administration. Worst of all, a plasma monster is rapidly devouring everything in sight. 

Anyone who’s remotely familiar with the ongoing Perry Rhodan serial knows that the titular hero is a proactive man of action. He’s not the type to sit around and wait for trouble to escalate. 

He immediately assembles his trusty crew including Reginald Bell (his best friend) and Lt. Puck (the irrepressible mousebeaver with superpowers). On impulse, Rhodan also conscripts Walt Ballin, the rabble-rousing reporter. 

At this point in the novel, you’re probably thinking all four concurrent crises have solutions dependent on each other—and that’s correct. Even though they seem totally unrelated, the plague, the alien ship, the plasma creature and the reporter all hold keys to a happy ending. 

In particular, the amorphous gelatinous monster is the most menacing threat of them all. Whether Mal-Se is sentient or not is never fully revealed by the author (or the translator). The plasma thingie is referred to as “he,” but there’s no proof that it’s anything but a mindless ambulatory piece of goop.  

In tandem with a giant robot brain (I love giant robot brains, don’t you?), scientists eventually provide some useful analysis. Mal-Se is a formless yet endlessly forming colloidal mixture of complicated endosperms and inorganic materials. By utilizing highly evolved tracing sensors, it moves with uncanny swiftness to consume alien albuminous and other organic compounds.

“There is not the slightest prospect of being able to contain it,” cries one expert in a panic, “because the plasma increases itself at a rate of billions of times per second it will take only 16 months until Earth will be covered in a thick layer of muck.” In the end, every creature on the planet will become a goopy monster. “All of us will become what our attacking agent already is.”

After a moment (or two) of panic, Rhodan and his buddies figure everything out. Whew! In just 120 pages, the plague is cured, the aliens are thwarted and the plasma monster is contained. 

Even the muckraking reporter changes his tune and becomes a fan of the Solar Imperium—although he has one final question for his new pal Perry Rhodan. “Do the monsters out there outnumber us?” he asks. “I mean, is the universe one big bag of horrors or is it a galaxy of wonders?”

“So long as humans fear, that in itself is the monster,” replies the philosophical First Administrator. “Once their fear has been conquered they will perceive the wonders of creation. It’s a long road yet but at the end of it is humankind, to whom the universe belongs.”

[Perry Rhodan #95: The Plasma Monster / By Kurt Mahr / First Printing: May 1976 / ISBN: 9781041660798]

Endgame

What’s your favorite act in a three-act play? The set-up? The conflict? The resolution? If you’re a fan of big Hollywood blockbusters, you probably enjoy the endgame’s explosive resolution—the moments when Godzilla crushes King Ghidorah and Captain America thwarts the Red Skull. 

For readers who enjoy the final act the best (you know who you are), I suggest picking up a copy of Primal Riptide. AuthorJulian Michael Carver dispenses with the first and second acts and goes straight to the climax. His latest novelette is all endgame and nothing but endgame. 

The story picks up immediately after the U.S. Coast Guard destroys a drug cartel’s headquarters on an abandoned oil rig in the Pacific Ocean. Readers miss “the most explosive Naval confrontation since the Cuban Missile Crisis” and join a shootout in progress between Coast Guardsmen and the last four surviving members of the Salerno Cartel, including drug queen Nikki Salerno, Xavier, the tattooed enforcer, mercenary Cassidy Davis and Leon Saville, a Navy turncoat.

Tensions are running high among the cartel castaways. After all, their entire base of operations has been destroyed and they’re trying to outrun a fleet of Navy point-class cutters. Bickering escalates quickly and the fugitives are having a hard time keeping their shit together. 

But what they don’t know (yet) is that the real danger lurks below the water’s surface. All the action on top of the ocean has attracted the attention of something big—something like “an overgrown great white shark or a big orca.” 

The cartel and the Coast Guard quickly discover that they’re both being pursued by a sea creature that shouldn’t even be alive, namely a 66-foot-long megalodon. When Cassidy first sees the prehistoric shark coming her way, she knows that she and her comrades are doomed: “It’s a killing machine, the largest ocean predator ever known to scientists. We don’t stand a chance!”

Up close, the meg resembled “a large bloated great white shark,” writes Carver. “Its belly hung down as if it had just feasted on an entire blue whale and it’s icy eyes pierced the watery refraction like two great snow-globes. From its mouth jutted an array of razor-sharp teeth that reminded [Cassidy] of a hungry underwater tyrannosaur.” 

In conclusion, I’d say the non-stop action of Primal Riptide is fleetingly enjoyable, but unsatisfactory as a standalone piece of fiction. The author wanted to write a book that could be read in one sitting. Mission accomplished. But there’s a reason stories are written in three-act arcs. It’s the building blocks of all good linear narrative. 

[Creature Features #1: Primal Riptide / By Julian Michael Carver / First Printing: March 2022 / ISBN: 9781922551368]

House of Sasquatch

There are definitely monsters in Beasts of the Caliber Lodge, but I wouldn’t exactly call it a monster novel. There’s also a lot of espionage afoot, but I wouldn’t call it a spy novel either. 

It’s a hybrid effort of course. Author L.J. Dougherty calls it “a novel of espionage horror” and he’s correct. His mashup adventure involves Nazis, Nazi hunters, bored rich elites and a secret community of Sasquatch.

Dougherty isn’t swimming in uncharted waters here. There are other writers who have dipped their toes in the espionage horror genre pool in the past. Just off the top of my head I’m reminded of the excellent Milkweed trilogy by Ian Tregillis (2010) and Kay Kenyon’s A Dark Talents series (2017).  

Beasts of the Caliber Lodge takes place during the swingin’ 60s. An international organization of Nazi hunters is searching for Wilhelm Stengl, a former Colonel of the SS and a man who possesses a dossier of names and addresses of legendary Nazi high rollers. The job of these mercenaries is to capture Stengl alive and bring him to justice. 

After years of dead ends and near misses, the group finally gets a worthwhile tip. Stengl (now known as Kristian Beckett) will be vacationing at the Caliber Lodge in Alaska. Through various connections, the Nazi hunters are able to send an agent named Jimmy Knotts to the super exclusive snowy resort. 

This is when genres start to blend. Knotts is hoping to capture the slippery SS agent, but he finds himself in the middle of an unexpected plot twist. It turns out that the Caliber Lodge is an outpost for wealthy big game hunters looking to bag the most exclusive prey on earth: Sasquatch!

Naturally, Knotts and Stengl have a prickly relationship, but there’s additional intrigue at the lodge. One person to keep an eye on is Jonathan “Black Rhino” Turk. He’s a Kraven the Hunter-kind of guy with a shady past. And then there’s Greta Everly, the mistress of the manor, who enjoys having sex wrapped in a Sasquatch pelt. 

The two genres ultimately come together for an explosive finale as the Caliber Lodge goes up in flames like the House of Frankenstein. The good guys prevail. Both the Nazi hunters and the Sasquatch earn their long-awaited rewards. 

[Beasts of the Caliber Lodge / By L.J. Dougherty / First Printing: March 2021 / ISBN: 9798553886776]

The Halloween Haunted Forest Tour

Four years ago a copse of trees popped up in Nowheresville, New Mexico. Not only was the forest a foreboding place, it was also home to thousands of frightful monsters—beasts with claws and fangs and tentacles and huge bloodshot eyes and every kind of grotesque appendage.

Scientists were baffled by the appearance of the Haunted Forest. The internet, on the other hand, ran wild with conspiracy theories. The most common theory was that the United States of DC Comics had developed a high-tech tree growth hormone that had gotten out of control, and the creatures in the forest were being bred as super-soldiers. 

In reality, the Haunted Forest was an interdimensional portal. The monsters from one dimension were coming to our dimension to feast on an all-you-can-eat buffet of human flesh and offal. 

Sounds rather bleak, doesn’t it? The appearance of the forest was an alarming harbinger. It was the beginning of Armageddon and the end of the world and that kind of thing. But some people didn’t see it that way. The mayor of a nearby city, for example, was perfectly fine having monsters as neighbors just as long as they decided to keep to themselves. 

And then there was Martin Booth, the owner of H.F. Enterprises. He decided to turn the area into a wildly popular tourist attraction. His Halloween Haunted Forest Tour allowed people to ride a tram straight into the heart of darkness. He assured visitors that nobody had ever been eaten on one of his tours—and “nobody ever would!”

But as we all know, accidents happen all the time. Even in Finland and Disneyland, the two happiest places on Earth, people aren’t 100 percent safe. In truth, the Haunted Forest was more like Jurassic Park than Hershey Park. 

An unexpected tram accident two miles into the forest left 84 people unaccounted for. Spoiler alert: Nearly all of the passengers were immediately gobbled up by hungry monsters. “Things with fangs, things with claws, things with spikes, things with horns, and even a fuckin’ thing with a giant mouth on it’s stomach.” 

It was up to a mötley crëw of survivors to figure out the mystery of the Haunted Forest and ultimately save mankind from extinction. Time was running out, and they couldn’t wait for the Justice League of America to swoop in and save them. 

The novel ends in a glorious orgy of hellhounds, 15-foot ogres, colossal wyrms, lizard men, snake women, human-faced scorpions, imps, giant ants, dragons and werewolves. There’s even a pinch of torture porn to make readers squirm. Most devious of all, however, was the demon puppet master orchestrating the entire show from the sidelines. 

Somehow, through grit and luck, a handful of people found their way to a happy ending (sort of). Said one character in a fit of endgame empowerment: “I’m tired of letting this forest push me around. I’m tired of the bugs and the tooth-bearing things and the blood and the fur and the claws and the … the stuff. I’m tired of all the forest stuff.”

[The Haunted Forest Tour / By James A. Moore & Jeff Strand / First Printing: September 2017 / ISBN: 9781977529992]

Psycho Sea Spider

Be forewarned, there’s a lot of needless exposition in Spider Legs, the giant sea creature novel from co-authors Piers Anthony and Clifford A. Pickover. It’s not Moby Dick level exposition, of course, but it’s totally disruptive and maddeningly unnecessary. 

All writers know that exposition is an essential literary tool. It provides context and helps manage the story’s action and rising climax. Using this simple matrix, Spider Legs would certainly benefit from a better balance between setting, character and conflict. 

Readers are treated to an unflagging discourse on sea spiders (Pycnogonids) and the indigenous environment of Newfoundland. That’s to be expected, I guess. Unfortunately, the info is delivered in the most dull and didactic way possible. 

For 200 pages, this pedantic writing style strangles the narrative dead (check out the villain’s long-winded soliloquy and weep). Congratulations to anyone who makes it to the awesome climactic man-verses-monster endgame.  

But is it worth the trouble? I dunno. The closing chapters featuring a giant mutant sea spider terrorizing a ferry full of tourists are indeed terrific—kudos to Anthony and Pickover for giving us a last minute thrill ride. It’s too bad the rest of the novel is soooo boring. The nicest thing I can say about Spider Legs is that it’s a slow burn. 

Characterization and dialog are also a big problem here. Not for one moment do the characters talk or act like real people. Take for example the novel-length courtship between lonely policewoman Natalie Sheppard and Nathan Smallwood of the Harvard Museum of Comparative Zoology. 

“I find myself getting intrigued with you in a male-female way,” says Nathan to Natalie during their second date. That makes me happy, she replies. “I have a great need for affection, love and physical pleasure.” Could sexual tension between two lovers be less steamy??

Later that same day, the two lovebirds check into a hotel to consummate their affair. “Perhaps you can appreciate the appeal of such interaction,” says Natalie, tickling Nathan where it counts. After a little bit of frottage, Nathan unknowingly shoots his shot prematurely. Natalie has to tell the poor guy what just happened. “Oh, my!” he says flushed with embarrassment. “I didn’t realize!” 

Oh, brother. Has there ever been a man in the history of mankind who wasn’t aware of having an orgasm? No, of course not. To prove how bad the sex scene is, I wish I could cut-and-paste the entire thing and attach it to this review. It’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever read. 

[Spider Legs / By Piers Anthony & Clifford A. Pickover / First Paperback Edition: February 1999 / ISBN: 9780812564898]

Curse of the Wolf Man

Eighty-year-old Miss Edna was a snoopy old bat who constantly pestered Sheriff Ben Carter with her scandalous town gossip and conspiracy theories. She had cried wolf so many times, the sheriff no longer paid any attention to what she said. 

This time, however, Miss Edna really saw a wolf—a wolf man to be exact. “I was just sitting on my porch Halloween night minding my own business,” she said, “when this man in what I thought was a wolf costume came running out of the woods.”

Edna lived in a small Mississippi town just south of Memphis. Like similar townlets, Mercy was full of eccentric outliers and castaways. To her knowledge there wasn’t a single werewolf among them.

But regardless, there he was in the middle of the woods—a werewolf shot through the heart with a silver bullet. Investigating the crime scene, Sheriff Carter and his cousin Lily Gayle Lambert couldn’t believe their eyes. Where had the wolf man come from, they wondered? Had the monster escaped from an asylum? A zoo? A circus??

Carter and his cousin didn’t have any RL experience with werewolves, but the corpse certainly looked like the real deal. Although, to be honest, they both noticed that the face didn’t have the elongated snout of a wolf or any razor-sharp teeth. The guy looked more like Lon Chaney Jr. in those old black-and-white Wolf Man movies. 

Naturally, the sheriff wanted to keep the murder on the down low. His cousin, on the other hand, couldn’t stop chattering about it. “I would follow the devil into hell to solve this case,” the middle-aged Nancy Drew wannabe confessed. “The imp of perversity always sits on my shoulder.” I wouldn’t call Lily Gayle nosy; she just needed to know things. 

And sure enough, while Sheriff Carter was running around in endless circles, Lambert began working her gossip network. She picked up a few tantalizing clues from her lady friends, but she was only able to solve the case when an unexpected deus ex machina popped up in her email inbox. 

Deus ex machina or not, sharp readers will be able to figure out the mystery of Death of a Wolfman by the end of the first page. You may want to stick around until the end, however. The third act plays out like a cheap paperback gothic romance from the 60s. In other words, it’s silly and predictable in the best possible way. 

[Death of a Wolfman / By Susan Boles / First Printing: August 2016 / ISBN: 9780997909302]

Monster Fight! Part 2

Like the first volume (read my review here), Duel of the Monsters, Vol. 2 features a riotous mix of combative monsters: vampire vs. utahraptor, bigfoot vs. grizzly, Mr. Hyde vs. the Phantom of the Opera, sea serpent vs. kraken, swamp thing vs. incredible hulk and many, many more. 

Unlike the first volume, however, this latest outing is 100 percent satisfying. Looking back, the series debut was a fun romp through the monster-verse, but it was ultimately undone by poor execution. I’m happy to report that there’s been a big bump in quality for Vol. 2. There isn’t a duff cut in this 11-story comp. Congratulations to everyone involved. 

What’s more, the new batch of stories has the potential to be serialized in future volumes. If you know anything about me, you know how much I love serialized fiction. I’m not sure what editor Christofer Nigro and his colleagues have planned for Vol. 3, but hopefully we’ll see more of Subject 17, papa wendigo, Arthur Osmond the werewolf hero and Bruce Banner Bradford the ramblin’ man-beast. 

My favorite contributions come from authors D.G. Valdron and Matthew Dennion. Both of these stories compare the cultural legacy of two iconic monsters. 

Dennion’s “Vile Intentions” pits Robert Louis Stevenson’s Mr. Hyde against Erik, the Phantom of the Opera. The two madmen share many of the same proclivities (they both love chanteuse Christine Daaé, for example), but each one is different in a fundamental way. ”You are simply a man who looks like a monster,” says Edward Hyde to his adversary from les souterrains de Paris. “But me, I truly am a monster.”

“The Masterpiece Creation” is a smart smash-up of Frankenstein, Bride of Frankenstein and King Kong. It’s a twisted tale of friendship, hate, love and sexual frustration. 

The story by D.G. Valdron is told from the perspective of the great ape. “I was another of the master’s experiments,” he explains, “an effort to grant human intelligence to an ape. I was given human intelligence … and human desires.”

The ape and Mary Shelley’s original monster are good friends. They share a similar origin story and are united in their hatred for their creator. At night, when the master sleeps, they sip wine and play chess. 

In the background, the Bride is waiting to be reanimated. She was made for the monster, but has aroused the ardor of the great ape. “She waits,” he says. “She is my dream, my vision, my perfection, my goddess, my empty vessel, my bride.”

Eventually, this unrequited sexual lust causes friction between the two friends. Who will win the affection of the newly reborn woman? Or is she just a pretty receptacle for the victor’s pleasure? 

Even during battle, the great ape isn’t quite sure how things will turn out. He wonders: “Will she resent the two of us, and our base desires, for having brought her into existence, with no other intent than applying her to those desires?” 

[Duel of the Monsters, Vol. 2 / Edited by Christofer Nigro / First Printing: November 2021 / ISBN: 9781737895923]

Vengeance of the Gods

Pharos the Egyptian (a.k.a. Ptahmes the Magician) was born 3,000 years ago. In his lifetime he witnessed the first Olympic games, the rise and fall of the Roman Empire, the birth of Lao-tse and the death of Cleopatra. Gee, maybe he even got to meet author Guy Boothby?

But, alas, eternal life always comes with a heavy burden. For his bad behavior and hubris, the Egyptian gods denied Pharos the endless sleep he sought for three millennia.  

Not only did Pharos hold a grudge against the ancient Pharaoh who cursed him, but he also resented the gross lifestyle of contemporary European society. Wrote Boothby: “For such a man as Pharos to exist in the prosaic 19th century was absurd.”

Pharos was a disgruntled (and world-weary) mummy who had sworn vengeance on the human race. His plan was simple: kill everyone in Europe and hope Osiris would be pleased. For backup he enlisted the aid of a beautiful Hungarian violinist and a nominally famous painter from England. 

Being a musician or an artist wasn’t important, however. Pharos simply needed two weak-willed individuals to exploit for his own selfish purposes. Fräulein Valerie de Vocxqal [sic] was a convenient medium for the will of the Egyptian gods and Cyril Forrester was simply a vessel to carry “The Egyptian Fever” across the continent. “The truth is,” cried Forrester when he finally figured everything out, “we are both in the hands of a remorseless fate, and are being dragged along by it, powerless to help ourselves.”

It wasn’t all vengeance and pestilence in Boothby’s novel. As with most Victorian fiction, there was also a fierce love story to grab onto. The ensuing courtship between de Vocxqal and Forrester was appropriately breathless and intense, but unfortunately the two young lovers were doomed by circumstances beyond their control. 

It’s crazy ol’ Pharos, of course, who steals the show, and Boothby wastes no opportunity to describe his pet ghoul. “He had an expression of cunning malignity on his face,” said the author. “A more evil-looking figure could scarcely have been imagined by Victor Hugo.” Later, de Vocxqal wondered: “How was it possible that a man breathing the pure air of heaven could be so vile?” He was terror incarnate and an inhuman monster assessed Forrester. I have to admit Pharos had mad gaslighting skills as well.

By the end of the book, the plague had killed 159,838 people stretching from Constantinople to London (a strangely specific number, don’t you think?). Satisfied with his accomplishments, Pharos tapped de Vocxqal to petition a response from the elder gods. 

Their reply was predictable. “Thou hast used the power vouchsafed thee by the gods for thine own purposes and to enrich thyself to the goods of the earth. Therefore thy doom is decreed and thy punishment awaits thee.”

Pharos’s death rattle was immediate. His skin fell from his bones and his skeletal fingers tore at his throat. He slumped to the floor dead, an inglorious 3,000-year-old pile of dust and bones. Good riddance. 

[Pharos the Egyptian / By Guy Boothby / Wildside Press Edition: June 2002 / ISBN: 9781587158407]

Neo-Frankensteinian Meta-Man

A Lovely Monster is a parody of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein filtered through a sexy 70s lens. Funny but not as funny as Young Frankenstein, fun but not as fun as The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Richard De Marinis’s novel is more self-aware and digs deeper into its 19th century source material.

It’s also like a Bizarro World version of Frankenstein. Instead of being a misunderstood, unloved wretch, this monster is attractive, makes friends easily, gets a job and enjoys an active sex life. The author even flips the emotional dynamic. “I wanted you to think of me as your father,” says Dr. Kraft Tellenbeck to his newborn creation. “I asked you to call me by my first name. You remember? But you refused. You rejected me. YOU REJECTED ME.”

But it’s funny how things turn out. Even though the patchwork monster is a stud, and the doctor is an emotional wreck, the end results mirror Shelley’s original narrative. “I am out of place,” admits the monster, “and as long as I live, I always will be.”

When he first rises from the slab, the monster is simply known as Alpha Six, initially nothing more than a successful experiment to Dr. Tellenbeck. But after a few weeks of watching old movies on television, he picks a name for himself. “I am not a machine with nomenclature,” he announces one day. “I am a person. Call me Claude Rains.”

Rains, of course, is the actor famous for being filmland’s Invisible Man—a man who can’t see himself unless he’s wrapped in bandages. “There is a sadness in this,” says the monster who intuitively understands the Invisible Man’s existential predicament.

Even though A Lovely Monster contains layers of sadness, the beginning of the novel is actually quite funny. Claude is a golden boy full of confidence and sexual swagger “The fear of dysfunction is not strong in me,” he says without blinking.

He is confident and rightly so. Imagine being young and beautiful in Hollywood during the 70s—Warren Beatty or Don Johnson for example. Imagine also having the cock of a Shetland stallion and the balls of a mountain gorilla. “It’s a nice piece of artillery,” says one admirer.

Claude’s circle of friends represents broad caricatures of L.A. culture at the time. One woman is a curvy nudist obsessed with est therapy, another woman is a landscape painter who is sexually adventurous and one guy speaks in outdated hipster lingo like Maynard G. Krebs.

But it’s Dr. Tellenbeck who is Claude’s biggest champion. Right from the beginning he cares for his creation like a baby. He holds his hand and dries his tears. He is Claude’s number one fan (until he isn’t).

And then slowly, as everybody knew would happen, Claude reaches a peak of dispause. His flesh starts to sag off the bone, his toes fall off and he suffers from impotency. “Mechanical breakdown due to inferior materials and indifferent workmanship is growing at an alarming rate,” he notices while looking at his reflection in the mirror.

And like Shelley’s monster before him, Claude becomes melancholy and morbid. He embarks on a spiritual journey of transformation to escape dreams of angry villagers carrying torches. Even though he’s a science fiction icon, he knows science can’t be trusted.   

[A Lovely Monster / By Richard De Marinis / First Printing: January 1976 / ISBN: 9780671221751]

Challengers of the Unknown

Immediately following the end of WWI, German U-boat captain Hans Farrow took his submarine and set sail for adventure. Where his journey would take him he could not say.

Sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? Traveling the world, visiting exotic seaports like Casablanca and Bequia. What a life. Nothing to think about except the sky of blue and the sea of green.

But there was one nagging problem for Capt. Farrow. Because of the Treaty of Versailles, he and his jolly team of submariners (including son Jörn and strongman Hein Gruber) were political dissidents. They flagrantly ignored the prevailing Entente following WWI, deciding instead to recast themselves as seafaring romantics.

I wouldn’t call Farrow a flag-waving German Nationalist. He simply didn’t want to give up his “wonderful submarine” and submit to postwar restrictions. To him, the sea was a neutral zone filled with mystery and adventure.

In this particular adventure (circa 1930-something), Farrow visits the island of Celebes. While picking up supplies and doing a little sightseeing, he hears about a giant stingray terrorizing the Spermonde Archipelago. Immediately his curiosity is piqued. “It’s true that some skates have been caught that were nine feet wide and seven feet long,” he muses. He wants to see the sea monster for himself.

The locals, however, warn him to stay clear of the nearby archipelago. The stingray has already destroyed many ships that foolishly ignored the danger. “I want to try it anyway,” says Farrow. “We may be able to spot the monster ray. And if there’s rich booty around, then maybe we could be in luck.”

The stingray isn’t the only danger afoot. There’s a village bully and two Chinese scoundrels who all share a nasty agenda. Farrow could tell they were up to no good. The war and being chased by Interpol awoke in him a sixth sense, which rarely let him down.

As it turns out, the three criminals and the giant skate are connected to each other. Are you surprised? If so, you haven’t read enough pulp fiction, German or otherwise.

Soon enough, the submarine’s crew encounters the sea creature. The giant ray’s tail rose from the water and crushed the ship’s tender to bits. “The monster must be so large that it could easily swallow a man whole,” opines the captain’s son Jörn.

But was it really a colossal stingray—maybe even a newly discovered species? Or perhaps it was some kind of animatronic trick concocted by the Chinese hooligans? The onboard scientist didn’t know what to think. “Was it really a ray?” he wonders. “The tail glittered silver all over, but rays usually have dark tails.”

Anybody who’s familiar with fake monster stories (or seen an episode of Scooby-Doo) will easily figure out if the skate was real or simply a mechanical prank. Captain Farrow, on the other hand, didn’t catch on very quickly. It took him an entire novel to solve the riddle.  

[Jörn Farrow’s U-Boat Adventures: The Sea Monster / By Reinhard Wilhelm / Translated by Joseph Lovece / Dime Novel Cover First Printing: August 2015 / ISBN: 9781515229063]