THE METAL MONSTER
Hippocampus Press / 237 pages / 2002
Fans of classic, pulp science fiction along the lines of E.E. “Doc” Smith are no doubt going to be swooning at the prospect of Hippocampus Press’ new Lovecraft’s Library series. The chance to read novels such as The Metal Monster in their original form will be irresistible. Readers who are not so entranced with the overuse of the exclamation point and the easily horrified hero may want to take a clue from Stefan Dziemianowicz’s fourteen page introduction; they may wonder why it takes so many words to reveal that Merritt spent many years editing down this novel. He is proud to announce that this new edition restores the text in its entirety. Others may long for the savagely slashed version Merritt struggled to produce. Chances are, you’re going to fall solidly on one or the other side of the debate.
For those who thought Alain Robbe-Grillet just did not give enough detail in his maddening works will be cheering throughout the forty pages Merritt rolls out, covering a journey to the Metal Monster’s lair. Everyone else is going to be wishing a sharp editor had gotten to this manuscript before it saw publication. To say that the author dwells on minutae is understatement akin to his overstatement.
In The Metal Monster are the seeds of the liquid metal T-1000 of “Terminator 2” fame — barely a germ of an idea. The antics of the metal creatures in this novel were enough to shock a 1920s audience that was prone to being easily astonished (hence, the hundreds of exclamation points), but today’s audiences are a more jaded bunch. Not every oddity is likely to strike terror into the heart of anyone who has witnessed nuclear weapons, sexual predators, and the horrors waiting in every newscast.
Remember the more sheltered lives of the average law-abiding citizen of eighty years past and the reactions of the characters are more understandable. Try to put yourself in their shoes, so to speak.
Goodwin, Drake, Ventnor and his fair sister Ruth, are the first modern humans to face the awful force that they term “The Metal Monster” – unlike anything the group has ever encountered. The chilling tale they have to relate is almost too fantastic to be credited, but Merritt knows it is duty to bring the story to the world, to let everyone know the terrible fate they barely escaped and the possibility of other such monsters out there.
What follows is a long, meticulously detailed journal of the four’s amazing, astounding, jaw-dropping adventures in a hidden world. It’s vintage stuff, for die-hard enthusiasts of the sub-genre. Go into it knowing that and you won’t be disappointed; you’ll applaud Hippocampus for preserving this example of a lost style and a long-gone point in our history. Add it to your shelf of Golden Age classics.
Just resist the urge to break out the blue pencil and chop this novel to the short story it should have been.