The Radio Man by Ralph Milne Farley
In 1912, Edgar Rice Burroughs story “A Princess of Mars,” was serialized in the pulp magazine All-Story Magazine. The tale was full of swordplay and daring feats, but one of its real contributions to fiction was the way it transported its protagonist to another world. No struggling to build a rocket, dealing with the arduous journey through space, or finding a way to overcome the atmosphere of a strange new environment. Instead, ERB just mystical transported his hero from Earth to Mars without any real scientific explanation.
In this wake of this, many other authors followed suit. One of the most successful was Ralph Milne Farley’s Radio series. During our recent snowbound days, I remembered I had picked up copies of The Radio Man and The Radio Beast at a little “used” bookstore.
Published in 1924 The Radio Man series follows the same concept of moving from one planet to another without a rocket. Author Ralph Milne Farley’s concept would be to beam his hero, Myles Cabot, with radio waves to the planet Venus. Think of it as an early and more powerful version of Star Trek’s transporter. He would, in turn, transcribe his adventures in a diary, build a rocket ship, and shoot them back to the third rock from the sun for publication.
In the first installment of Cabot’s adventures, our hero finds himself quickly on a new planet. At first, he believes it to be Mars, but later concludes it is Venus. His travels ended when ant-like creatures called the Formians to capture him. What I like about these stories is there is no terror or disgust with the interaction with this new race. Instead, as a prisoner, he readily accepts them, learns to communicate with them, and later becomes a part of their colony.
During his time with the Fromians, he is introduced to Princess Lilla, who is a Cupian. Cupians are a human-like race, which of course allows our hero to fall in love. Through various adventures, Cabot learns that the Cupians are in fact slaves to the Formians. Some politics enter into the story as Cupian King Kew struggles to keep the peace, but evil forces conspire to undermine his rule. Cabot goes on to introduce the Cupians to numerous Earth ways, including the use of guns. Once armed, he helps spearhead a Cupian revolt against their Formian masters.
The Radio Man is a quick read, and somewhat silly in a few areas. While it is similar in ideas to Edgar Rice Burroughs, Barsoom series, it does not have the same gusto or action. Since our hero uses his scientific and technical knowledge to solve problems, I’d compare the story to A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court. The nice thing about The Radio Man is that it comes to an end. No cliffhanger ending that requires you to read book two The Radio Beasts.
(Spoiler Alert – The review below gives away some events from the first book.)
The Radio Beasts by Ralph Milne Farley
In the sequel, the author, who arranged to publish the first Radio Man manuscript, takes an active role in the narrative. Myles Cabot, it turns out has found a way to beam himself back to Earth. The author rescues him from the police and allows him to stay at his farm with his family. During his stay, Cabot picks up his adventures where they left off.
He and Princess Lilla have married and are living an idyllic life in a private castle on a lake island waiting for the birth of their first child. Then disaster happens, evil cousin, Prince Yuri assassinates Lilla’s father, King Kew during a celebration of peace. With Yuri aligned with the ant-like creatures for control of Venus, war breaks out. Cabot is captured, escapes, and works his way from the capital to rescue his love before she is forced to marry Yuri.
The Radio Beasts is a fast-paced cat and mouse tale. Filled with heartache, mystery, and fighting. All of the characters from the first novel are back including the introduction of a host of new residents of the planet. This novel is much more in the thrill ride tradition of a great pulp fiction adventure. In fact, I don’t think you need to read installment one to enjoy this sequel. However, since both are quick reads, I suggest you go ahead, and binge read both to experience the full development of author Farley’s complete vision.
Although The Radio Beasts come to a satisfactory end, it does extend itself with a quasi-cliffhanger ending. Farley would pen three more installments to his series. The Radio Man is available as a free download via Project Gutenberg as is installment three The Radio Planet. The Radio Beasts can be found at fadedpage.com also as a free download in a variety of formats.
I am aware that Man, Beasts, and Planet were published in paperback during the 1960s. I found two of them somewhat damaged, put cheap. Since they have all I believed entered the public domain you may find them republished in book form for sale online if you don’t care for e-reading.
- The Radio Man
- The Radio Beasts
- The Radio Planet
- The Radio Minds of Mars
- The Radio Menace