Waves of Death unleash a Time Terror: Doc Savage time!

Moving into 1943. we’re now solidly in WW II, though it doesn’t change things much from pre-Pearl Harbor stories such as The All-White Elf

THE TIME TERROR has a great opening in which “the skinny man in the grey suit” accidentally spills a bottle of something stinky on Onie Morton. Onie decides to stay home. Dent makes clear this is not, of course, the accident it appears. Onie works for Doc as a news condenser, boiling down the days news into bullet points so Doc can scan it. I believe past stories mentioned a clipping bureau but this seems a step beyond it; given the emphasis on Doc using his crime-college graduates for espionage, I’m surprised Dent doesn’t identify the condensers as part of the network.

It turns out none of the condensers have made it in to work, all because of the skinny man, later identified as Shorty. Doc, of course becomes suspicious and fingers a plane crash in Canada as the story the skinny man is trying to cover up. He and the crew head up there, after locking Pat in the library to keep her from following. Shorty, however, captures her and takes her along as a hostage.

It turns out what downed the plane was a pterosaur. Not far from the crash site is a lost land of cavemen and dinosaurs like The Land of Terror and The Other World. Like The Awful Egg there’s no hint they’ve ever faced dinosaurs before — did Dent or his editors just assume (as comics used to do) that the turnover in readers was rapid enough (it’s been three years since The Other World) that current readers wouldn’t know Doc vs. Dinosaurs had happened before?

Apparently Dent has been reading up on paleontology because Doc and Johnny point out that the mix of animals — dinosaurs of different ages, mammals, primitive humans — is all wrong. Even if they’d drifted in to the region at different times, why wouldn’t they have evolved or changed as happened elsewhere? Turns out there’s a reason: a chemical in the lost valley that blocks evolution. A scientist has studied the chemical and derived an evolutionary enhancer. The Japanese want it, making this Doc’s first clash with our foe in the Pacific (all the Unnamed Sinister Foreign Powers of the past few years have been European). Shorty’s working for them under pressure, though the story hand-waves his deeds away.

Doc and the scientist defeat the Japanese and agree to deep six his discovery: the world simply isn’t ready, especially as the beneficiaries would be only those well-connected or rich enough to arrange for the treatment.

Overall it’s an excellent yarn. WAVES OF DEATH, not so much.

This one reads like Dent was in a rush to make deadline so he recycled elements from Time Terror. There’s a mysterious death in a small northern town (Michigan, this time, by an impossible tidal wave), an attempt to keep Doc from learning about it, Doc learning about it. There’s a surprising amount of padding, like having guest characters repeat the same information to different people, or Doc telling us details he’s deduced that someone else has already told us. Despite Pat doing regular work for Doc now, Doc insists that he doesn’t want her anywhere near the action.

The McGuffin is clever, an electrical ray that causes tidal waves as a side effect; the scene were Doc’s team are hit by a wave is effective. Otherwise this is unremarkable.

Interestingly, both novels give Doc’s background in a footnote rather than the text (saving space?). Waves emphasizes that Doc never knew why his father trained him the way he did, making me wonder if Dent had an origin in mind he never told (a later story suggested Clark Savage Sr. was atoning for something in his own past).

#SFWApro. Covers by Emery Clarke, all rights remain with current holders.

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