Book Review: The Green God by L. Ron Hubbard
Disclaimer: I received this book as a Goodreads giveaway on the premise that I would review it.
This is another in the line of pulp reprints put out by Galaxy Press, and continues their tradition of excellent physical quality. I should also give a shout-out to GP’s distinctive shipping materials. This time, the focus is on adventures in the exotic land of China.
“The Green God” is an exciting tale of Lieutenant Bill Mahone of Naval Intelligence. It seems someone has stolen a jade idol, and the city of Tientsin has erupted in riots. There’s a minimum of exposition, and the lieutenant is in constant danger from the first sentence. Among other things, he is buried alive according to the customs of the local Chinese.
Bill takes quite a beating over the course of the story, and it eventually becomes a bit much for him still to be moving, even by pulp standards. There’s some on-screen torture, so be advised.
“Five Mex for a Million” is novella length, and requires a bit of explanation for the title. A “Mex” was a Mexican peso, which was used as a trade coin with and in China from 1732-1949. As it happens, Captain Royal F. Sterling has five Mex and a small silver coin in his pockets at the beginning of the story.
That’s not very much money for a man on the lam for murder (it was self-defense) from the Chinese military. He goes to the Thieves’ Market in Peking to buy local clothes for a disguise, but sees a mysterious chest and purchases it on a whim. The chest carries the ideograms for “Good luck”, “Long life” and “Happiness.” The contents of the chest? That would be a spoiler, but it leads Captain Sterling on an adventure to Outer Mongolia.
This story has a bit of romance, rushed though it may be. Sandra Kolita starts the story as a damsel in distress, but pulls her own weight quite well once Royal gets her out of the initial fix. Just don’t ask for realistic character development for anyone involved.
Both stories treat the Chinese as superstitious at best, and expendable fanatics at worst. This was typical of pulp stories of the time, but is still jarring to modern readers.
There is also a preview of “Spy Killer”, the lead story in the next volume. Violent sailor Kurt Reid jumps ship when he’s falsely accused of murder, but on land he may be in more danger from Varinka Savischna, sultry Russian spy.
There is a glossary of terms that may be unfamiliar to 21st Century readers, which should be helpful to most. As with all volumes in the set, the book is fitted out with the stock prologue and author biography. Because the book is such a fast read, and the repeated material makes it even shorter than it looks, casual readers may want to check their library or used book stores.
Still, this is exciting stuff, with non-stop action–great for a night’s escape from the everyday world.