Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society

10/23/20 -- Vol. 39, No. 17, Whole Number 2142

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Co-Editor: Evelyn Leeper, * *

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FROM HELL IT CAME (1957) (film retrospective

by Mark R. Leeper)

THE LAST EMPEROX by John Scalzi (audio book review

by Joe Karpierz)

GALILEO AND THE SCIENCE DENIERS by Mario Livio (book review

by Gregory Frederick)

SEVEN OF INFINITIES (letter of comment by Arthur Kaletzky)

Musical Accompaniment to Silent Films (letters of comment

by Paul Dormer and Gary McGath)

This Week's Reading (comfort reading) (book comments

by Evelyn C. Leeper)


TOPIC: FROM HELL IT CAME (1957) (film retrospective by Mark

R. Leeper)

The New York Times, which likes to give one-line reviews for movies

scheduled for TV has a quick phrase for this film: "FROM HELL IT

CAME?  BACK SEND IT."  Well, I can certainly see where they are

coming from.  In truth this is not a very good film.  Actually, in

truth I should use stronger language.  The idea of a tribal

folklore monster coming to life would not be a bad one.  But that

is about the only thing that is good about this often genuinely

incompetent film.  There was a strong temptation to say this is not

really a science fiction film at all but a horror film with some

science fiction elements.

As I assume most of my readers know in the 1930s up into the 1970s

it was common practice for movie theaters, particularly drive-in

theaters, to have double or more features, offering the public two

or more films for the price of one.  Too frequently the second

feature was of minimal budget.  That sounds like a bad thing, but

the second film often was made with more creativity than the main

feature attraction.  The filmmakers were less likely to depend on

large profits and they would take chances trying to find a concept

that might intrigue a filmgoer who stumbled on the poster.  Instead

of something only semi-unimaginative like a giant ant or a giant

spider or some other giant arthropod or crustacean, you might get a

giant evil, angry tree stump.  The latter was featured in FROM HELL

IT CAME.  Sadly the strange idea of a walking tree was the best

part of the movie.

The concept of FROM HELL IT CAME is that if a man has been treated

with sufficient injustice, in this life he could come back not as

an avenging ghost but as a Tabonga.  What is a Tabonga, you ask?

It is a walking (and avenging) spirit wrapped in a tree trunk."  Do

you want to see what an angry tree stump looks like?  Well, it sort

of looks like a cross between an angry Orthodox rabbi and a

cinnamon sticky bun.  See ** if your

heart can take it. This is not a very good film, but it has its

moments of fun and the idea is weird enough to make up for the

film's numerous deficiencies.

The story deals with Kimo, the son of a recently murdered chief of

a tribe on a South Pacific atoll near where a nuclear test took

place.  Kimo is accused of the crime and found guilty through the

treachery of his wife.  The real murderer is the new chief of the

tribe.  But Kimo has been friendly to the visiting American

scientists investigating the effects of radiation, and Kimo's

friendship has bred suspicion.  Kimo's punishment is to have a

dagger driven through his heart and to be buried in the ground

standing up in a box of tree logs.  Kimo's last words are a threat

to be stronger in death than his accusers are in life.

After the execution, the plot action slows down as the scientists

tell each other things they should already know about the

background of the story.  Subtle how the script works!  But true to

Kimo's curse his vengeful spirit does come back.  Out of his grave

grows a stump with a face.  The native tribe has a legend that

vengeful spirits can inhabit trees and come to life.  The resulting

monster is called a vengeful spirit or Tabonga.  When the

scientists investigate they find the stump has a heartbeat like a

human.  The scientists find the heartbeat failing and give the tree

an experimental drug to strengthen the heartbeat.  The Tabonga

comes to life as a rubbery-looking version of Kimo with a knife in

its trunk and an angry face.  Finally in the last twenty minutes of

the film the Tabonga goes on a rampage killing Kimo's enemies.

While none of the acting rises above high school play quality, some

lines by bit actors are notably terrible.  Tod Andrews is the only

really familiar actor.  He was best known in the late Fifties as

TV's Gray Ghost,' based on the Southern Civil War hero John Mosby.

The Una'Connor Irritation Award goes to Linda Watkins as Mrs.

Kilgore who talks incessantly in a horrible Australian accent.

At some point this film had some potential because it did have a

really different monster, the Tabonga created by Paul Blaisdel.

However, the monster looks like a tree from The Wizard of Oz or a

McDonald's ad.  It looks entirely too stiff in the upper parts and

rubbery around the arms and legs.  The angry face on it just looks

silly.  Where we hear words in the native language it does not

sound like a South Pacific dialect.  The whole telling of the

backplot in details dropped in conversation that is contrived.

The pacing keeps anything of plot interest until the last twenty

minutes.  Most the script is a holding action to just awkwardly

delay any action to transform the two minutes of story-into a

seventy-minute film.  The film has enough problems without its long

dull stretches for people to tell each other what has happened.

Just to prove there is always someone who does not get the memo,

the tree monster is called a Tabonga in the film but in the trailer

it was called a "baronga."  The fact that the trailer producer

decided the coining of a different generic name for the monster is

"a baranga'".  [-mrl]

Turner Classic Movies is running this on October 29, 5:15 PM.  (If

this isn't enough tropical horror for you, it will be followed by

DEATH CURSE OF TARTU at 6:30PM.)  [-ecl]


TOPIC: THE LAST EMPEROX by John Scalzi (copyright 2020, Tor Books,

308pp, ASIN: B07QPGW9FS, ISBN: 0765389169, Audible Studios, ASIN:

B084RNDS97, 8 hours and 7 minutes, narrated by Wil Wheaton) (audio

book review by Joe Karpierz)

John Scalzi is nothing if not dependable and consistent.  You know

what you're going to get with a Scalzi novel.  Fast paced writing,

interesting characters, well thought out worlds, and a very

satisfying story.  THE LAST EMPEROX, the final book in the

Interdependency trilogy, is no exception.

The apocalypse is coming.  Well, not yet, anyway, but soonish.  The

Interdependency, a galactic spanning empire held together by the

Flow, a not-well-understood method of traveling between systems.

The Flow is also Scalzi's way of getting around the FTL drive

problem.  We know that the Flow is going to collapse, eventually

isolating all the systems in the Interdependency.  As a reminder,

it is called the Interdependency for a reason.  Systems can't

support themselves, and they all depend on each other via the Flow

stream.  It is up to Emperox Grayland II--otherwise known as

Cardenia Wu-Patrick--and her lover, Flow physicist Lord Marce

Claremont, to figure out a way to save the people of the


But of course it's never that easy, is it?

The huge cast of scheming, conniving characters from the first two


make life difficult and interesting for Grayland.  Grayand made a

lot of enemies at the end of book two, exposing the member of a

rebellion and sending them to prison.  Nadashe Nohamapetan

continues to orchestrate assassination attempts in an effort to get

Grayland off the throne and get herself seated there.  She's not

the only one, of course, and as it becomes obvious that there are

as many people that want her dead as want her alive, she needs to

come up with that plan to save the people of the empire.  What's

different about her plan, as opposed to the plans of the opposing

nobles, is that she wants to save everyone, and they want to save


Claremont is a brilliant scientist, and he is working to find a way

to save the people of the Empire.  He is making headway, but not

much--it's slow going.  It turns out that he's working with at

least one hand tied behind his back, and it is only after  the

restraint is removed that he can come up with something that will

save the entire Interdependency.  Not all at once and not

immediately, but it can happen.

The other character that I want to mention here, and one that

became a fan favorite, is the vulgar, foul-mouth Lady (and we all

use the term loosely) Kiva Lagos, who is not even the head of her

own house but has somehow been put in charge of the House

Nohamapetan financial assets (which believe me, comes in handy

here) as well as being assigned to the Emperox's Executive Council.

To say  that she has more than a few enemies is an understatement.

So, in 308 pages (or 8 hours and 7 minutes, which is the way I

consumed the novel), Scalzi manages to summarize what has gone

before, continue the palace intrigue, deliver a terrific story, and

give the reader a satisfying ending while managing to throw a few

surprises in for good measure.  And while Scalzi has tied up this

story very nicely, there are threads out there that he has left

dangling that he could write additional novels in the

Interdependency universe, although if he does only time will tell.

As he did with the first two books in the series, Wil Wheaton

narrates with his usual enthusiasm for the story and the

characters. I can hear Scalzi's voice in Wheaton's narration, and

there's no one I'd rather have reading Kiva's lines--Wheaton does

it so well that it's hard to remember that everyone hated him as

Wesley Crusher all those years ago.  Beverly would not be happy

hearing what is coming out of his mouth.  Well, Kiva's mouth,

anyway.  [-jak]



by Gregory Frederick)

This is a history of science book about Galileo and the beginnings

of modern science based on mathematics, observation and

experimentation to investigate the World and the Solar System.  But

also it covers the difficulty that Galileo had to deal with when

the Catholic Church tried to censor him.  Using a much-improved

telescope created by Galileo himself, he observed the Moon, the

phases of Venus and the four large moons of Jupiter which orbited

Jupiter.  After viewing these objects he was convinced that

Copernicus was correct in that the Sun was at the center of our

Solar System and that the Earth and other planets orbited around

the Sun.  Until Copernicus most thought that the Earth was at the

center of our Solar System and everything orbited around it.

Galileo printed his books in Italian instead of Latin so that

everyone could read them.  Galileo was able to deduce that objects

fall with the same gravitational acceleration by using inclined

planes and rolling balls down those planes.  This way he could slow

down the motion and time the movement.  Newton used Galileo's ideas

and went even farther to create Newtonian physics.  Galileo thought

that science and religion can co-exist as long as the conclusions

of science concerning physical reality are accepted without any

intervention of religious beliefs trying to denounce those provable

facts.  The author went on to state that science today also faces

push back from those who deny the scientific facts of climate

change and evolution for example.  So, though this book is about

what happened in the 1600's it is still relevant today.  [-gf]


TOPIC: SEVEN OF INFINITIES (letter of comment by Arthur Kaletzky)

In response to Joe Karpierz's review of SEVEN OF INFINITIES in the

10/16/20 issue of the MT VOID, Arthur Kaletzky writes:

It isn't at all hard to imagine sentient spacecraft having sex with

humans: it was pretty commonplace in Iain M. Banks's Culture.

They just make an avatar of the appropriate species and, if

applicable, sex and/or gender.

Continent class General Systems Vehicle Gegenbeispiel*, originally

of the Culture but now loosely affiliated to the Ah-Forget-It

Tendency, by its avatar Arthur Kaletzky (assumed Culture identity:

"Sun-Earther Artur Ester dam Bol'shayanikitskaya19") *the

translation from Marain into English, Counterexample, doesn't sound

nearly as good as the one into German.  [-ak]


TOPIC: Musical Accompaniment to Silent Films (letters of comment by

Paul Dormer and Gary McGath)

In response to Evelyn's comments on the musical accompaniment to

silent films in the 10/16/20 issue of the MT VOID, Paul Dormer


The problems with the organ at Noreascon Two were reported in the

Souvenir book, I recall.  (My first visit to the US.)

I went to a showing of AELITA at the Barbican Centre in London

abouttwenty years ago.  Live piano accompaniment.  Unfortunately, a

couple of times the film jammed and melted.  The pianist stopped

playing until the projectionist fixed the problem.

I recall it was part of a double bill with THINGS TO COME.  [-pd]

Gary McGath adds:

I wasn't there [Noreascon Two] but later heard that a Leslie Fish

concert was scheduled in a room next to where Kiley was practicing

for the movie.  The soundproofing was somewhere between inadequate

and nonexistent.

Kiley's name was very well known in Boston, thanks to constant

mentions on Red Sox broadcasts.  [-gmg]

Paul replies:

I hadn't discovered baseball in 1980, although a friend I was

travelling with took a shine to it and became a Red Sox fan.  There

were three of us sharing a motel room somewhere in New England and

the Sox were playing the Angels in California so the game was going

on late at night.  And we were all jetlagged still.  Two of us

wanted to sleep but Tim wanted to know how the game would end.  And

believe me, if you've been watching cricket all your life, baseball

at first seems very boring.  They'd been playing an hour and only

scored one run.  Some crickets could have scored a century in that

time.  (The record is still Gary Sobers scoring 36 off of six


I probably had not even heard of Fenway Park in 1980.  Last night I

stayed up to see the end of the Ray-Astros game.  [-pd]


TOPIC: This Week's Reading (book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper)

[When I discussed offensive attitudes last week, and talked about

Arthur Conan Doyle, I didn't mention the most egregious: his

treatment of the Mormons in A STUDY IN SCARLET.]

On the Coode Street Podcast, they are doing short conversations

with authors, and one question they ask is what comfort reading

they are doing during this time of pandemic.  So I thought I might

give you some idea of my mindset with my comfort reading over the

last several months.  There are books I am re-reading and (usually)

not reviewing.



Connie Willis, DOOMSDAY BOOK


James Hilton, LOST HORIZON

Raymond Chandler, THE LITTLE SISTER



Olaf Stapledon, LAST AND FIRST MEN

Christopher Priest, THE GRADUAL

W. Somerset Maugham, THE TREMBLING OF A LEAF

China Mieville, THE CITY & THE CITY

Currently on my queue in this category are Jose Saramago's CAIN,

Christopher Priest's THE ISLANDERS, and more short stories by

W. Somerset Maugham.  [-ecl]


                     Mark Leeper

* *

          The fundamental laws necessary for the mathematical

          treatment of a large part of physics and the whole

          of chemistry are thus completely known, and the

          difficulty lies only in the fact that application

          of these laws leads to equations that are too complex

          to be solved.

                                          --Paul Dirac