Ray Cummings, 1887-1957, wrote some 750 novels and short stories in his career and is considered one of the founding fathers of pulp science fiction. He even worked with Thomas Edison for five years, 1914-19. In 1922, he wrote “Time…is what keeps everything from happening at once,” a sentence repeated by scientists over the years. His most significant work is considered THE GIRL IN THE GOLDEN ATOM, a 1920 novel, the plot of which he recycled for a Captain America tale.
TAMA OF THE LIGHT COUNTRY, serialized in Argosy Weekly in 1930, begins with a midnight raid on a girls camp in Maine. Ten of the teenagers are missing, a couple of others, as well as councilors, are dead.
Jack Dean is a reporter that gets in on the story as it starts to leak out. He’s joined by his friend, Jimmy Turk, both flying up to join the investigation. Reports of mysterious lights, other attacks and missing girls.
One of the campers, a young woman named Rowena Palisse, has a familiar name. Her brother, Guy, had blasted off from Earth ten years before on his homemade rocket headed for the Moon and hadn’t been seen since. A battle soon happens when three figures appear and seem to try to grab Rowena. The huge figure escapes, the smaller one is shot and the hovering one is also shot and turns out to be a young woman with wings, her dying breath being “give warning…”
One of the investigators is a Dr. Grenfell, a man in the process of building his own spaceship, the Bolton Flying Cube. Something strange appears in orbit and Jack, Rowena, and Jimmy and a crew go up with Grenfell to see retrieve it before it burns up in the upper atmosphere.
What they find makes up the bulk of the book, a manuscript from the missing Guy Palisse explaining his whereabouts these past ten years. He’d ended up on Mercury and found people living there. The Light Country was that fairly temperate band around the planet that bordered the face always toward the Sun, the Fire Country, and the backside, eternally cold, the Cold Country. They looked human in every respect, but smaller, owing to the small size of Mercury. The females were born with wings and, by law, had to have them clipped when married. As long as they remained virgins, they kept them.
That didn’t sit well some of the females and they began to rebel. Tama was one of them, a leader. Things get really rough when Roc, a jealous fellow, pushed through a law making it mandatory for females to be clipped when they turned sixteen. Roc was the son of a man who’d tried to conquer the High Country years before and then fled to the Cold country when unsuccessful.
Guy and a few sympathetic males band with Tama and the others and flee, refusing the new law. They hide in the outer country and that sets up the males, who were building their own spaceship to go to earth to steal females. The pages in the orbital craft are Guy’s attempt to warn Earth.
The Bolton Flying Cube sets off to chase the Mercury ship headed back home, Mercury still fairly close(9an orbit around the sun every eighty-eight days).
TAMA, PRINCESS OF MERCURY, serialized in 1931, finds the people of the cold country, under the command of Roc, planning to conquer the Light Country. The inhabitants, though human, are adapted to fight the extreme weather, huge with layers of fat to protect them. They had secretly built another ship and went to Earth to find Tama, grabbing her, along with Rowena and Jimmy Turk, who’d they’d drugged to get the location of the women out of him.
The Bolton Flying Cube is off to Mercury again to find the women and prevent war.
The first was the best of the two, though not quite up to Burroughs, the measuring stick in my mind of all such sword and planet adventures. There’s a third tale, a novella titled AERITA OF THE LIGHT COUNTRY, available in an eboo with the first two. I haven’t read that one.
For the next few Fridays, Todd Mason is gathering the links for Friday’s Forgotten Books over at SWEET FREEDOM., Check them out.