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column 161k 10/41 Birds of Death column


Doc's musical accomplishments are almost as well known as his scientific genius -- but even he can't match the peculiar talent of the strange yellow canaries whose sweet music is the song of death!


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Note: Comments may contain spoilers.

Thomas Fortenberry

Birds of Death begins seemingly as another of the "weird scary birds" tales (see The Mental Monster, for example of same device) though it quickly heads off in a different direction. It has some nice work in it, such as the speed with which Doc acts. All the gang is present in this one, so as soon as Doc is involved in the mystery and before the initial contact has even left the headquarters skyscraper, Doc immediately calls them all up and assigns them different tasks of research, arrest and confrontation, or surveillance of the priniciples in the mystery. "Holy cow, so something has started!" Renny rumbled. "I'll be there." (Bantam Omnibus 9, p 131). Before the door closes, Doc and gang are on the case. This is the efficient Doc operation we know and love.

There are some nifty insider moments in this tale. One explores Doc's musical accomplishments, which are mentioned here and there throughout the series: "Julian," said Boot, "did you ever hear of a man named Doc Savage?" "Yes, sir," replied the servant. "what have you heard about him?" "Mr. Savage composed a series of selections particularly adapted to the violin," julian replied. "There is a touch of genius to the work. They are going to become famous in future centuries." Benjamin Boot was surprised. "Oh, so he composes music, too! I had heard of him as a scientist. One of my mining companies is using an invention of his for using very short ultraviolet rays to locate deposits of flourescent minerals at night. Such minerals as scheelite, which is seventy percent tungsten." Julian hesitated. "I...ah...have heard of Doc Savage as a man of violence, too." (p 125) Ah, Doc's a renaissance man, indeed!

Another mentions Pat and perhaps explains how she becomes embroiled in so many of their adventures: "How did you know about the hunt for Renny?" Doc demanded. "I have a radio. I overheard Monk and the others reporting to you..." ... In an alarmed voice, Benjamin Boot said, "If this girl heard your men reporting by radio, what is to keep anybody who has a radio receiver from hearing them?" Patricia answered that. "Nothing," she said, "except an unscrambler gadget that is about three vacuum tubes and a cogwheel more complicated than a television receiver." ... Doc frowned. "Where did you get your scrambler, Pat?" "Stole it out of here one day," Pat replied calmly. (p 161) Go, Pat, go!

Anyway, this is a globe-trotting adventure, with lost tribes, weird science twisted to evil means, and a thrilling, non-stop story. It has a lot to offer.

One final insider surprise I will mention, because it is utterly exceptional: Doc saves Monk and himself from death by performing one of his death-defying acrobatic feats of swinging and leaping through the tree-tops of a jungle to escape a horde of natives, but amazingly this time he does it while injured and with an exhausted Monk hanging on his back. It scares Monk to death and he is literally white-knuckled and eyes-closed throughout the day. Later, after Monk has rested and recovered a bit, Doc has to continue the trek and makes Monk climb on his back again: Monk was not enthusiastic about it, but he did so. He was less enthusiastic as the bronze man calmly stepped off into space, hit a limb with a breath-taking jar, went off it as if it were a spring board. Monk closed his eyes. he did not open them again until they were on the ground. "Whew!" he said. "I think I'll get me a nice quiet job making dynamite." (pp 197-98) That's our man of bronze. The only man alive who can scare Monk and whose strength so far outclasses Monk's own ape-like physique that the chemist is like a child next to him. And that says a lot. Monk is amazingly strong, but Doc is a physical freak of nature.

Thomas Fortenberry

- | - July 24, 2003 11:40 PM

Chuck Welch

For some strange reason Mark Butler has made this novel into an audio book.

You can find it here:

- | - October 24, 2004 02:01 PM


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