The Fantastic Island - December 1935
Written by Ryerson Johnson and Lester Dent
What do I love about the Pulps? Stories like this one…
Take an island in the Galapagos, add escaped Russian royalty, Komodo Dragons, and an active volcano… what do you get?
Pure Pulp Goodness - that's what Johnson and Dent gave us in The Fantastic Island. The story begins with an expedition led by Johnny disappearing in the vicinity of the Galapagos Islands. Something happens to him and the Pat Savage, Monk, and Ham just happen to be on a yacht on vacation in Panama, so they head off to find Johnny…
There is an attempt to make a big deal out of a mysterious hole that appears periodically punching through people's skulls… This reveal was particularly uninspired. The best parts were The set up and the locale was quite evocative. There were good character bits when Johnny, Monk, and Ham were thrown into pits and forced to dig. Pat was taken to a castle on the mountainside where a Russian expat attempted to woo her. An ever-present active volcano added a nice ticking clock - I'll have to remember that one - and Pat Savage is always welcome.
Once again, Bantam's release order baffles me. The end of Fantastic Island (Bantam paperback #15) leads directly into the beginning of Murder Melody (Bantam #14.) All the Doc stories have a paragraph at the end and usually they were cut by Bantam. But not this one, so why not just publish them in the same order as originally published? If you read the Bantams in order, you couldn't help but notice.
Other things of note - Doc has a mechanical doppelganger called "Robbie the Robot!" This is the first known instance of the name. There are some scenes in this one where Doc gets Savage like he did in the early days. There is a cool crab swarm attack. I loved this phrase as a huge candelabra is knocked around - "Candles showered down, their flames whipping like tiny comets." There was a well written end of the 2nd act summary that launched us right into the third act.
On the whole this was a good, but not great story. I'll give it a 7 out of 10. The Bantam cover is by James Bama and the Pulp Cover is by Walter Baumhofer. The interior illustrations from the pulp are by Paul Orban. I have linked this art from Chris Kalb's site.
Given all the crazy set up, I was disappointed that the horrible monsters ended up being 'merely' extra large iguanas. In the story (as in life), these beasts can be 10 feet long and weigh 150 pounds which is double the normal size. That's kimodo dragon size. I was hoping for triple size, massive, lost dinosaur stuff, but they went with a realistic choice - especially after the utterly fantastic elements in Murder Melody. I guess I'll see if this becomes a trend. This story was only missing Renny and Chemistry has yet to show up again. Phew.