063 06/38 The Submarine Mystery

Chuck Welch
June 8, 1998 - 1938 / bama / Bantam 061-072 / clark / nanovic / novel / pulp

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It might be a hoax, and it might not be. Blood has been spilled! People are dead! The Man of Bronze ably confronts a dangerous crackpot scheme that has a baffled world wondering what will happen next.

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Comment Archive

  1. Chuck Welch says:

    Ignore the blandness of the blurb. This was one of the better Doc novels. The first of the “Doc is human” stories it features Doc confused, angry, unsure, and many emotions we didn’t know the Bronze man possessed.

  2. Andrew Salmon says:

    This one must have the worst blurb in the entire series. Yawn! Huh!? When I first read this one, I was new to the world of Doc and this more human, vulnerable Doc through me for a loop. However reading it again, I appreciated the insights into his character. Getting a glimpse into his emotions makes him more real to the reader and this one provides some good moments. And having two women falling for Doc in the same novel is a hoot.

  3. Thomas Fortenberry says:

    The title and the blurb go beyond the pale in order to turn away readers. You couldn’t find something more snore-inspiring than the bland description of the blandly titled “Submarine Mystery.” However, if you make it past the blockade and actually crack open this book, hey, hey, we have an actual story worth reading!

    Now, granted, the weird hook isn’t that weird (people speak with odd Old English accents) and the point is indeed a submarine mystery with, gasp, modern-day pirates. That said, the book is well written and there are some great behind the scenes moments dealing with Doc Savage and crew that really expand our knowledge, especially of Doc himself. For instance, we get to see his “Alladin’s cavern” of a headquarters full of technological tricks, traps, and secret panels getr the best of some bad guys. There’s a funny scene where Monk is speaking in his usual slanguage, complete with just some noises and whistles, and Doc is interpretting it almost like a foreign language to mean everything from the status of the situation to the fact that there is a girl involved who is gorgeous (p 48). There is also another scene where Doc frees them from imprisonment and potential death, but when they start to escape he says they should turn back and save the other people, the lady of the book included. Monk says they should save themselves since it’ll be hard enough just getting themselves out alive, to which Doc the psychologist replies, “If we left them, and escaped, we might feel embarrassed.” (p 50) Embarrassed! So of course, they turn back and fail trying. But one cute moment between Monk and Ham while they are fighting the bad guys: Monk hits a guard way too hard, knocking him out and almost knocking his body out to sea. When Ham chastises him and says why did he do it, Monk answers it is “illustrating” as an example to show Ham how hard he is going to hit him later. (p 65)

    We also get to see behind the mask, if you pardon the expression, of Doc. On page 39 (Bantam) his training is explained and he is considered a “flop” because despite the scientists best efforts and their goal he was not a machine, but still possessed human emotions. These are somehow a flaw and were supposed to have been driven out of him like a bad germ. All he got from the process was the ability to “pretend” and hold his face rigid in an expressionless mask, though he still seethes inside. We also see those emotions explode several times in this book. Once, when a lady has been riding him incessantly, for instance mocking him over the thoroughness of his search of a building saying “You missed a flyspeck over here,” (p 37) and making him so mad at one point he refuses to talk to her (p 35), he actually tells off a lady “for the first time in his life” (p 40). In the most dramatic example, and perhaps one of the best ever in the series, Doc is so horrified and angry over the abuse of poor villagers and especially a sick child that he actually snaps and attacks the villains in pure anger. he hurts several of them severely, breaking jaws and arms with every blow. It is a harsh, but poignant scene, because immediately afterwards Doc tries to help the people and does administer to the terribly sick child. Showing that he is physician first, he stops everything and uses his undersea oxygen tablets as a treatment for pneumonia. We see the compassionate Doc who is openly agonized by the plight of these people and feels and wishes he could do so much more to help them. But his training is exceptional and he is able again and agin to muster the strength necessary to do the impossible and fight against overwhelming odds. One interesting display of sheer brain power: remembering dozens of names and phone numbers on the fly, which is nothing, it is explained, because he can retain hundreds of digits in his memory at a single time. (p 37) Of course he uses gadgets and chemicals, some secreted on himself and some on the amazing pets. Also later he uses a special chemical to repel attacking animals, good on anything from dogs to sharks. (p 89) The man is simply amazing.

    Overall it is a good solid read. The tale may be more straight forward and “realistic” than some of the early wild zingers, but it has all the elements of the very best of the old Doc adventures plus some great new ones. This book is a rather perfect blend of the old and new Docs.

    Thomas Fortenberry

  4. DOC THOMPSON says:

    Either my first Super Saga or one my first novels-Hey cover got me-I read the Haunted Ocean,too.I guess I like subs.Don’t I read the Man of Brothers,brothers.
    come see my new site.

  5. Mark Carpenter says:

    For me, the only mystery about “The Submarine Mystery” is why Dent chose this particular novel to suddenly reveal so much about Doc’s emotional life. Why waste all that fascinating bronze angst on this unremarkable story? Any Lester Dent experts out there know the reason? Was it planned? Was it an accident? Was he just bored with the character and wanted to shake things up?

  6. This bad boy rocks! As Thomas says above, it’s a very satisfying blend of both the old and the new Doc. One gets so used to the Doc of the earliest tales cruising through an adventure with his bronze hair unruffled that it comes as quite a shock to see him stymied as often as he is in SUBMARINE MYSTERY. Hammy and corny as the 1933-34 supersagas may be, you can’t help cheering as Doc escapes death-trap after elabourate death-trap without even breaking a sweat … Then you read this little gem! All in all, although I prefer the earlier yarns, there is still gold to be mined from the later years. My rating? 4 out of 5!

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