Screaming trunks of soldiers seared by white-hot fire … a small, twisted man carrying long loaves of bread … a thin liquid with a peculiar sickening smell … Branded the worst traitor in history, the Man of Bronze fights through the flames of revolution to uncover the master of a world of the Living Dead!
8 thoughts on “The Munitions Master”
In a word — WOW!! This novel not only boasts one of the (if not the) best Bama cover in the Bantam edtions but is also perhaps the grandest of all the adventures. It begins with Doc in France where a mad terrorist launches a gruesome attack which Doc and his aids are blamed for! The story then spreads to the whole world as more terrorist attacks occur. Even a US battleship is wiped out horribly. The world is on the brink of all-out war. Doc and his aids are branded as terrorist by the entire world. Gangs of seething New Yorkers try to destroy Doc’s headquarters on the 86th floor. Fleets from all over the world set out to destroy Doc’s Fortress of Solitude! The action is incredible and non-stop. The themes of terrorism and impending war must have been relevant back in August ’38 with WWII just a month away. But with the first anniversary of the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, they are strikingly relevant today 63 years later. The story is fast-paced, action-packed, horrific and features a climax that Doc cannot resolve without violating his oath to not take human life. This adventure is not perfect by any means but it has to be the biggest adventure ever! Read it for the pure enjoyment and appreciate the themes it explores. It is quite simply one of the best!!
I liked this book simply because it is a Doc Savage
Advenure… but talk about unbeleivable… Doc ends up in the Munition Master’s fortress… deemed The most secure prison anywhere… and he just walks around with his utility vest, whipping out gas bombs and various acids and chemicals whenever he needs them… c’mon… if this is the world’s most secure prison, woundn’t they have searched doc at the door? And the part about Doc being so perfectly framed that the whole world instantly turns on him and hunts him down as the world’s most evil villain… I think folks would have a little more faith in Doc’s integrity. Maybe I am just playing the devil’s advocate, because it is still a really cool book.
Way cool Bama cover! The story is pretty good, too, though a bit familiar: Doc goes to a war-torn foreign land and tackles an evil monster bent on taking over the world. Or something like that. (It’s reminiscent of The King Maker, one of my favorite Doc Savage novels.) Still, it makes for a good read.
Here we have a pretty rough Doc Savage novel. There is death and gore aplenty in this one. The story has some problems structurally and sometimes is over the top, but overall this is one of the most devastating in the series. The reason: Doc is framed and framed good so that he appears to be an international megalomaniac. The entire world is after him and all his men. Why did this occur? Courtesy of the mind of one of Doc’s greatest villains: Count Victor von Doom, er, ah, I mean Count Carloff Traniv.
Traniv is a genius inventor and munitions master whose secret laboratory/munitions factory in Africa is the epicenter of a plot to spark a world war and conquer the world. This villain stands opposite of Doc strongly, perhaps even moreso than John Sunlight (blasphemy, I know, but hear me out), because he almost succeeds in all areas. Whereas Sunlight stole Doc’s inventions to use and sell, Traniv invents his own and has a great arsenal of them (including fleets of robotic flying machine guns). In this way he is like an anti-Doc, inventing fantastic devices only for evil. His secret lab in the jungle is also a gigantic complex of futuristic labs, plants, and torture chambers, something of an 86th floor gone mad. To further this anti-Doc theory, we also find he has forced great doctors to create a neurologically-based mind control over people. Operating on the brain, at the base of the spine, they wipe away people’s minds and create a legion of subservient zombies. This is the anti-crime college. An interesting aside, in this book Ham is said to have worked a great legal case in Haiti in the past and is familiar with zombies. Wow! Talk about your untold Weird Tales!
Traniv’s elaborate plot frames Doc Savage harshly until all the world has turned against him. This is very, very serious and we see anti-Doc riots in all the capitals and the police and FBI seizing his headquarters and taking all of his devices away for governmental study. The president and other world leaders issue dictums that Doc is too danger to even attempt capture and the possibility of survival, so he is ordered shot on sight. All his men, except Monk and Ham already captured by Traniv to use as pawns against Doc, are rounded up and arrested (Renny and Johnny escape involvement in this plot because they are not locatable supposedly exploring deep in the arctic — I believe this a ruse and they are secretly working on re-designing/re-securing the Fortress of Solitude following the events of the tragic Sunlight discovery of the Fortress only months before). The world is forced to the brink of all out war and governments are falling left and right. Entire armies, navies, and air forces are mobilized. Things degenerate until the point when world war and all out chaos is nearly irreversible and even when Doc momentarily breaks free and radios the world the truth that he is not the one behind this plot, the world’s leaders dismisses it and refuses to believe Doc is not guilty. His reputation has been destroyed and Traniv’s plot and inventions are triumphant.
Doc is stumped. He cannot win or beat Traniv in a pleasant or easy manner. Things get so dire that in the end, to Doc’s great sadness, he is forced to do the unthinkable: violate his own principles. This is severe. We see his reflecting on it and finding no way out. So in the end Doc is forced to kill Traniv and his entire worldwide network, which is thousands of people. That is, he tricks Traniv into killing all of them. Nonetheless, you have to wonder about the severity of this book. Traniv was a genius who beat Doc in every way on a worldwide scale and forced Doc, unable to defeat him, to give up and simply kill them all
Therefore, is this Doc’s greatest villain ever? Perhaps. I ignore the twist at the end that Traniv was also pawned and acknowledge fully the book is uneven and has some glaring problems, BUT looking solely at the villain and his accomplishments, this is a strong argument that Traniv was more dangerous than even John Sunlight. Traniv was a mad inventive genius with an endless supply of devices, had his own secret fortress, had his own army of mind-wiped zombies, and damn near took over the world, all while defeating Doc, his men, and destroying Doc’s reputation in a solidly framed plot. That’s pretty impressive. Sunlight’s one trump was that he survived to return. But given the Traniv inventiveness, I am almost inclined to give this villain the prize.
This was an excellent Doc adventure. At first it seems like Traniv has the upper hand in some scenes then, suddenly, Doc figures a way to fool him. Add to that a fast, enjoyable pace and you have a very good Doc adventure. I do like the epic scale of this one. NOt to mention the irony of Doc being accused of a crime yet being the savior of the story. I especially liked the male spy’s attitudes when he discovers Doc was innocent. Worth a read—a million times.
Huh? Doc is looking out of an airplane with a telescope. “Monk’s eyes opened wide. ‘I can see five miles ahead with my naked eye,’ he objected. ‘And I can’t see anything.’ ‘This is a radioactive telescope,’ Doc explained.”
Usually Doc throws anaesthetic glass balls. In this, Doc has a new kind of ball that makes things appear to be small and upside down! He also has a ball that makes sinking clouds, so he can parachute out of a plane and sink to earth inside the cloud, so the villain doesn’t know he isn’t in the plane.
In this one, the villain frames Doc as a world conquering fiend. How? He has legions of flying machine guns and prints “Doc Savage, World Ruler” on the bottom of them!
At one point, the French air force comes after the villain’s plane: “In a few minutes, orders had been sent to all army aviation fields. Planes took to the air by hundreds.” The villain disposes of them in three sentences: “The army planes became flaming meteors. Even their metal wings were aflame. They dropped out of the sky, vanished. ‘A thermite combination that burns any metal that it comes in contact with,’ Traniv was explaining casually to Allbellin. ‘Our ships are covered with a special preparation to protect them.'” But later there were only six planes: a headline reads “MURDERER SAVAGE DESTROYS SIX PLANES!”
Doc is frozen! Here’s a great awkward paragraph: “At first they were inclined to scoff. Here a ragged urchin was telling them that the infamous Doc Savage had been in a box in a truck, and was himself a cake of ice.” When frozen in an ice cube, Doc manages to free his eyelids. How? “In some manner.” Oh! I thought it was those eyelid exercises! He gets free by warming up. This sentence is clearly a typo, but an amusing one: “Doc was a big packing box.” (Page 38)
Luckily, Doc can match the villain gadget for gadget. The villain: “I turned loose a radio heat wave as soon as I saw Savage had freed the robot control. It should have blasted the transport out of the sky. It didn’t. That bronze devil checkmated the wave the only way it could be stopped: He turned loose a static machine that disrupted the burning ray.” Huh? This was the most ridiculous Doc Savage I’ve ever read. And it needed Habeas!
I really can’t think of another Doc Savage novel that falls apart as badly as “The Munitions Master.” What starts out as a terrific little thriller about a brilliant criminal who frames Doc for high treason, soon degenerates into a ridiculous romp. Author Harold Davis writes himself into corner after corner, with the only way out being to introduce plot twists that defy all logic and probably cause Lester Dent to spin in his grave. Take, for instance, a scene late in the book when Doc trades places with a small, deformed doctor. In the space of 60 seconds, he disguises the unconscious doctor as himself and himself as the doctor. Not only do the two have COMPLETELY different builds and complexions, they’re not even the same height. To have the slightest chance of fooling the book’s all-knowing villain, Doc would have to have the help of a top-notch Hollywood makeup department, as well as a full assortment of wigs, contact lenses and shoe lifts. Other absurd story elements abound: Doc carries small glass bulbs that cause everything from mile-long clouds to vertigo to torrential rains, the entire world turns on him in just a few sentences, then forgives him in just a few more. In fact, the book becomes so wacky and out-of-control, Davis seems to write faster and faster, looking for some way out. Huge sections of complicated action are glossed over with just a few words. By the end, not only was I totally disappointed, I was totally exhausted.
Bottom line: unless you have a taste for the ridiculous, stay clear of this one.
Absolutely awful. A terrific scenery-chewing villain, Carloff Traniv, is wasted in this ridiculously implausible story. The gadgets and escapes are piled on to the point of absurdity. I had hopes for this one, since I’d enjoyed Davis’ THE GREEN DEATH. Ranks with THE HEADLESS MEN as the worst Doc I’ve read to date.