The Man of Bronze and his cousin Pat face an inordinate challenge: a machine that makes all modern weapons worthless. A gang of international thieves in control of the invention are shooting high: World Control.
“As it turned out, Lester Dent didn’t just restructure The Motion Menace, he scrapped Johnson’s version entirely, though he kept the central idea and title, and wrote it anew. The published novel is thus wholly in Dent’s style with no traces of Johnson evident. It begins, not with Doc Savage in New York, but with Pat Savage in Shanghai, China! Interestingly enough, though the manuscript was submitted to Street & Smith in 1936, it did not see print until 1938.” — Will Murray, Writings in Bronze
5 thoughts on “The Motion Menace”
“gyroscopic interatomic behavior” — need I say more? Well, I will anyway. I liked the zepplin flight and the bad guy’s few sudden appearances and disappearances were enjoyable. Still, a maddingly middle muddle of a Doc novel.
This is one of my all-time favorite Docs. Non-stop action, over the top pulpness. I loved it!
Motion Menace is a bit odd. It is many things at once. None of them very superb — though average for Doc is superb for others. This is a tale of international intrique, a story with Pat guest-starring, and, of course, a super-science story that is actually pretty cool. The science gadget that stops all motion is pretty deadly (kills many a person and even Habeas Corpus during course of tale) and gives Doc and gang a good run for their money. This weird science attack is realistically portrayed and delivered throughout the book in a hair-raising way. Ironically, the one time and place where science fails in this book in at the end with Doc. In a trap with no way out (imagine that) the author gives up and cheats by having Doc suddenly have and use an atomic ray gun that can blast mountains of rock apart. Tsk, tsk. Whatever. It was a crappy out that was un-Doc like and more Flash Gordon.
Now to some good stuff. This tale has Doc being hounded by people and the press due to his celebrity. The crooks use this to their advantage, which proves Doc’s low-profile point. Patricia Savage is also attacked while innocently visiting China simply because she is related to Doc and due to his aforementioned celebrity the crooks assume she has been sent by him to spy on them. Darn those reporters and their not-so-wild tales about Doc’s great adventures and abilities!
Of course included in those abilities is this scene on p 16 of the Bantam edition: Doc Savage stepped out. Then he reached back into the elevator, grasped the operator and pulled him out. The fellow made noises like a tomcat. He kicked, struck and even spat.
Doc Savage gripped a handful of the left breast of the operator’s coat. The coat fabric was a stout weave. Yet it tore away as if it were ancient cheesecloth. Altogether, Doc’s fingers got coat, shirt, and undershirt — and a flat pistol and its holster.
How cool is that? Grabbing a crook and ripping his gun off through his suit. Dang! No wonder the press loves to write about the guy. Then of course there is the little fact that an amazing death ray is used to kill him in New York City, which is just the start of some hot action that spirals out of control until Doc is chasing down an Elders conspiracy, a Russian plot of world conquest, having dirigible races and battles across Eurasia, with a showdown in the Mongolian steppes of northern China. Just an average day at work for Doc.
There is a good look at Monk’s flamboyant penthouse, an ultra-modern chrome and glass affair near Wall Street. Here Habeas Corpus has been killed in an attempt on Monk and Doc uses his medical expertise (or is that veterinarian?) to resuscitate the porker. The scene is long and agonizing and Monk almost kills a prisoner they have taken in questioning him because he is angry about Habeas. Monk would be a terrible enemy to have after you. During it they are attacked again and it is truly heartstopping to watch grim-faced Doc and Monk tryign to flee from an invisible death ray that has already killed at both the skyscraper headquarters and now at Monk’s. I’ve never heard Doc yell “Run!” before and mean it, but here he does and is described to be in a “wild haste” to escape and try to save them. When Doc is frantic the reader gets real frantic because we know it has to be really, really bad to get to Doc.
I could go on about some other cool scenes, like Monk getting clubbed nearly to death and then hitting the guy so terribly hard the guy’s mouth and face collaspes and he “doubled over, and gargled up teeth and blood.” Whew! Remind me never to make Monk angry. Or a scene where Doc wall-climbs up a building into where his men are held hostage, breaks them free but then has to find another way out because they can’t human fly out the way he entered. Somedays, normal mortals just slow the man down. Or an awesome dirigible battle and crash… But there isn’t enough time to cover it all, so read the book. A few disappointing moments or more like the sense that we wish more time would have been taken with the disparate themes of the story, but overall a cool read.
[c 2004 Thomas Fortenberry]
Any Doc adventure that prominently features an airship is bound to be above average. This story is also one of the best Doc sagas with non-stop action a some rather better supporting charactors than usual. I only thought it a bit out-of-place that Doc should have such easy access to Russian secret service’s true answers. A note to wanna-be world conquerers: don’t rely on just one super-weapon.
“The Motion Menace” was ghostwritten by Ryerson Johnson and is a solid, worthy Doc adventure. It’s not as inspired as Johnson’s marvelous “Land of Always-Night”, but the action and story are tight and coherent, and it never veers into lunacy like stories by Donovan or Davis. I agree that Doc’s atomic gun is a bit of a
cop-out, and the fate of the two main villains is less than satisfying, but overall this is a dandy read.