The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

The Yellow Peril

Posted on | June 28, 2020 | Comments Off on The Yellow Peril

— compiled by Wombat-socho

One of the recurring tropes in science fiction (and pulp fiction as well) is the Yellow Peril, the notion that America is in danger from the Asian hordes – originally Chinese, but later Japanese, and now Chinese again – whose fiendish plots are foiled only by heroic deeds, super-science, or both. Or neither; the literature is full of tales where the United States has been utterly defeated, and only scattered bands of Americans fight on against the Asiatic occupiers.

The most famous of these is, of course, Philip Nowlan’s Armageddon 2419, which introduces us to Anthony “Buck” Rogers, veteran of the Great War and hero of the Second American Revolution. Rogers wakes from a 500-year-long sleep induced by a radioactive gas pocket to find that the United States he knew is long dead, but scattered gangs of Americans carry on the war against the decadent Han, having developed new technologies to aid them in the fight. Rogers brings to the table forgotten tactics  that prove lethally useful, and provides a leader the mutually suspicious gangs can follow. Nowlan’s original novel and its sequel (The Airlords Of Han) are both available for free on amazon and through Project Gutenberg, but the Ace paperback edition combines them into one novel. Speaking of the Ace edition, when the Buck Rogers TV series became popular, Ace hired Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle to come up with a series of outlines for four sequel novels: Mordred (written by John Eric Holmes) , Warrior’s Blood, Warrior’s World (both by Roger McEnroe), & Rogers’ Rangers (by John Silbersack). Since these sequels are all based on Nowlan’s novel (with some slight tweaks from Niven & Pournelle) they don’t have much to do with the TV show, but that’s okay – the TV show didn’t have much to do with the book. Fun, quick reads for cheap; if they were doing them these days, they’d probably be a lot longer.

I really wanted to like Buck Rogers: A Life In The Future, by Martin Caidin. I really did. Unfortunately, Caidin plays fast and loose with the original plot, and instead of Anthony Rogers leading the gangs of America to victory against the Han, instead he gets dragged along on a number of pointless adventures and meaningless contests, and zzzzz…oh, sorry. The worst part of all this is that Caidin is a decent writer who’s written a bunch of exciting books, and this just feels like he phoned it in to TSR. Not recommended.

Meanwhile, back in the 1940s, Robert Heinlein wrote Sixth Column, based on an idea given to him by John W. Campbell, and the odds are even longer in this one than in the Buck Rogers novels. Not only are the conquering PanAsians well on their way toward setting up a global totalitarian state, the only opposition left is a handful of scientists and soldiers led by a former ad executive drafted into uniform. Fortunately, they have a super-science gizmo to end all gizmos, and that Old Time Religion. Sort of. It’s only Heinlein’s second novel, but you wouldn’t know it. Recommended.

The Bear & The Dragon was Tom Clancy’s last novel, and if I remember correctly the last 20% was actually finished by Mark Greaney, which might account for all the swearing and sex that some of the reviewers complained about…anyhow, this is set in the Ryanverse, with Jack Ryan as President, and an assassination attempt in Moscow is just the start of the bad news here, because Red China intends to succeed where the Japanese failed and seize the Northern Resource Area (Siberia) for themselves. This is a good, if dated, mix of spy novel and technothriller, culminating in a clash between Red Chinese mechanized forces and Russian/American armor while the U.S. Air Force and PVO Strany have a turkey shoot against the People’s Liberation Army Air Force. Not the best of Tom  Clancy’s books, even in the Ryanverse, but good enough brain candy.

Have a favorite Yellow Peril novel I’ve overlooked? Mention it in the comments!

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