Just finished The Alien Ones, apparently written by the good Reverend Fanthorpe as "Leo Brett." Holy crap was this one nuts.
Okay, so it's the thirtieth century. Chemist Safron Wilde and his wife Celeste have bought land from the galactic government to farm on the frontier planet Orkol. I don't know why two scientists want to become farmers, but whatever. After a harrowing journey in which they nearly lose their ship, the Hypertron, they arrive at Orkol to find that of course it isn't the nice place they thought it was. The spaceport is practically deserted, administered by only a single battered robot. Safron has robo-phobia big time, but warms to the pleasant, if matter-of-fact, robo-receptionist, even if he has nothing but bad news to give them.
The land grant checks out, but it seems the government has canceled machine grants, meaning the Wildes will have no farming equipment to till their fields, or anything to build a house with. Safron is outraged and confused. They were assured that vehicles and machinery would be part of the grant, but it seems a new law came into effect and news just hasn't gotten back to Earth. That, or the powers-that-be on Orkol have a vested interest in not granting machines to incoming colonists while also continuing to lure them to Orkol under false pretenses.
The friendly robot is permitted to grant only fifty credits per colonist for spending money upon arrival as compensation for the revocation of the machine grant. We get the first indication that robots are not entirely devoid of compassion when he chooses to liberally interpret this as "fifty credits per person," meaning Safron and Celeste each get fifty, as opposed to "fifty per group," in which they would've just gotten fifty. He also provides them each with blaster pistols for self-defense against the local wildlife, claim jumpers and other assorted banditry. Unfortunately, he isn't permitted to provide them with a vehicle, so they'll have to walk the eight hundred miles (!) to their land.
Along they way they stop at the home of a guy named Pargoni. We know he's evil because he's gross and fat and after giving the duo shelter in his house for the night gives Safron a great big clonk on the noodle and tries to rape Celeste. Safron awakens prematurely, though, and spoils Pargoni's rapaciously diabolical scheme with a good kick to the face courtesy of his steel-toed workboots. The Wildes promptly flee the house and manage to flag down a truck driven by another friendly robot. Safron's robo-phobia is all but gone, considering robots, so far, have been the only friendly beings on Orkol at all. As they drive, the robot reveals a lot more than the one at the spaceport did. Safron notes that the land isn't being tended and is in fact overgrown and wild, despite the fact that all the land around the spaceport is owned - hence the eight hundred mile drive. The robot explains that this is because almost all the colonists who settled the original land have since sold their farms and gotten jobs working in the mines of a man named Haldane, who is evidently the closest thing Orkol has to a ruler.
Haldane's mine is closer to the spaceport than their intended destination, so Safron demands he and Celeste be taken there. The robot doesn't object to the detour, and soon the trio arrive at Haldane's headquarters. The robot at the door is a jerk and initially tells them to piss off, until learning that they're a chemist and physicist. It turns out that Haldane and his business partner, a scientist named Gray Hawkins, have needed of scientifically-inclined workers in their laboratories. We soon find out why. Shortly after colonists first settled Orkol, a radioactive mineral called Orkolite was discovered. Haldane got rich off the bodies of his workers mining the stuff under deadly and unsafe conditions, and now is pushing everything into mining more Orkolite instead of the crops, which is why so many farmers quit and either went to work in Haldane's mines or just outright returned to Earth - Haldane bought them out.
Haldane is also the one who campaigned for the government on Earth to revoke machine grants, but not to tell prospective colonists, sending him a neverending stream of unprepared hopefuls without the proper equipment who have no choice but to sell him and Hawkins their Orkolite-rich land and either return to Earth or come work for them. The turnover rate is high because the radioactivity from the Orkolite affects most people in a fatal manner. Gray Hawkins, however, it has rejuvenated into a super-genius. He came to Orkol a seventy-something drunk and de-aged him to about thirty-five. And because he and Haldane are cartoon villains, they don't provide radiation-proof suits to the lab workers, who die quickly and often; they just replace them as best as they can. To date, Orkolite hasn't affected anyone in the same way it has Hawkins, it just kills them. The long and short of it is that Haldane buys the Wildes' farmland and gives them jobs in the lab with Hawkins.
Pretty much out of nowhere, Hawkins takes the Wildes into his confidence and reveals that he has secretly distilled Orkolite into a liquid form capable of sonically (!) killing any living thing by basically vibrating its brain apart. Despite claiming to be "an animal lover," he tests this on a blue rat-like alien he claims is a pest that plagues the locals, and the thing drops dead pretty much instantly. He also says he eventually intends to overthrow Haldane and use the liquid Orkolite to become a "Galactic Caesar," and for some reason is confident that the Wildes will help him do this. He assures them Haldane has similar ambitions and insists he'd make a better intergalactic dictator than his boss. For some reason, our heroes buy this hook, line and sinker, and are strong-armed into basically being Hawkins' gofers.
For about two pages.
Because then Fanthorpe goes berserk. Exposure to the Orkolite turns Safron into a giant dragon-like monster (!) but who still possesses human intelligence (!!!). He trashes the lab, bringing everyone running. He conveys that he is still intelligent through writing. Celeste insists that human doctors back on Earth can help him be restored to normal, and that they can afford the medical bills for it with the boatload of money Haldane paid for their land. Haldane is fine with this. He just wants the monster off his property. But Hawkins, fearful that the Wildes will reveal his intention to betray his employer, tries to kill the mutated Safron with the sonic juice doohickey, whereupon Safron just squashes him flat. Goodbye. Then he and Celeste hitch a ride with another robot truck driver, who only has one arm, to go back to the spaceport.
Leaving Haldane in ruins (he claims the destruction has set him back twenty years), they have a series of midsadventures returning to the spaceport. They and their robot pal have to fight off some robbers and also help a farmer - one of the lone holdouts against Haldane's gradual takeover - fend off the blue rodent things, which it turns out are all one being with multiple bodies, and then arrive in the local town near the spaceport. While Safron snoozes, looked after by the robot, Celeste goes into a bar to charter passage and almost gets gang-raped by a couple of douchebags named Elmo and Jake and their scuzzy bar buddies. But her screams bring the robot running and much booty is kicked. Eventually, Safron awakens and goes Godzilla on the town. He smashes the place to bits, saving Pargoni's place for last. Yeah, remember him?
Unfortunately, it turns out Pargoni owns a huge bulldozer and almost kills Safron with it, attempting to shove him off a convenient cliff. But Safron overturns the dozer, and although he falls safely out of the flipped over vehicle and avoids being crushed, Pargoni winds up tumbling right off of the cliff he'd intended to shove Safron over. The would-be rapist promptly splatters. After that, it's back to the spaceport where they face one last hurdle - the robot from the beginning wants to help, but he can only accept cash or ample credit, and they've got no proof of the money Haldane wired to the bank on Earth when he bought their land. It's there, but the receipt hasn't come through. Goddamn red tape!
At the suggestion of the other, one-armed robot, though, Celeste fires up the spaceport communicator and threatens to unleash her dinosaur-like husband to do another number back at Haldane's HQ unless the mine owner pays for their return trip. He hastily complies. Bidding goodbye to their robot buddies, the Wildes return to Earth where in one single paragraph we learn Safron was restored to normal successfully by the doctors, and he and Celeste kiss. I guess Fanthorpe had a deadline.
I remember this one. For reasons known only to themselves, Five Star reissued it in 1972. The Alien Ones
From the first, I set myself against "literature"; the story was the thing, and no amount of style could persuade me to select a story that lacked genuine, unadulterated horror. For those who wanted something high-brow there was plenty.
Thanks for that fascinating review, Koosh. I guess the Rev was ready to rant on for another fifty pages but just then, the Missus came rushing in with the exciting news: "only 500 more words to go dear! I've got the tea on."
Maybe someday the veterans of The Young Ones will club together to do a series all about Life with the Fanthorpes. A saga for our times.
This past weekend (a holiday weekend here in the US) I observed what I now think of as "the Fanthorpe effect" in action in a novel by Dan Ross, The Foe of Barnabas Collins, published August 1969. I picked this one up at a reasonable price (around four bucks) from an online vendor (via Abebooks, which I find has much more realistic pricing than that giant warehouse burning in eternal Hell over yonder). I really bought it for the cover, which features a seldom circulated publicity photo of Jonathan Frid in the title role--one of my favorite of those photos. The only place I've ever seen it is on the cover of this book.
I don't feel like bothering to summarize the plot. It's not really a spoiler to reveal that the action is gearing up for a major showdown between Barnabas, vicious Satanic werewolf Chris Jennings (who bears no resemblance whatsoever to the character in the television series), and Barnabas's ruthless enemy, the insidious Witch Angelique Collins, in the final chapter.
Then, just as you're on what passes for the edge of your seat--it's really hard to work up much excitement with Ross's relentlessly bland prose "style"--the two baddies are dispatched in a casually relayed comment that adds up to less than twenty words, I think.
Clearly an instance of Ross working away and having Mrs come in and announce, "good news dear! only 300 words left to go!" And goodbye to whatever he had planned for the finale.
Another casualty which had a definite Fanthorpe touch was the disposal of a key, attractive supporting character offstage--this was handled with a shocking sort of dismissal more hair-raising in its indifferent disregard to potential reader emotional engagement than anything actually described in the proceedings.
One good line in this one: Angelique tells the usual clueless ingenue heroine, who claims not to believe in ghosts: "The lives of all of us are ghost stories... you should think about that." Of course, it leads to nothing at all, but it was a deftly achieved moment, one which made one wonder how things might have turned out had Ross decided to pursue a course other than this one. Which left him madly typing out the finale of the latest tosh in the back seat of a station wagon.
A shame about Mr. Norwood. And even more of a shame that the best Badger book was a total riff on Brennan's story Slime. Anyway, here's another nutso Lionel Fanthorpe adventure!
It's the trial of the century! Terence "Terry" Kildaire up on charge of double homicide. He works as chief of control at the Research Establishment, an atomic research facility nebulously connected in some way to the Home Office. Apparently, his assistant controller, Rawlinson, had taken gravely ill while in Kildaire's office. Charwoman Mrs. Bloggins had walked in to do some cleaning whilst Rawlinson was in conference with Kildaire and commented on the assistant controller's condition. Evidently, he was sitting leaning forward with his head down on Kildaire's desk, and Kildaire told her to get out and that Rawlinson was fine. But when she returned later and Rawlinson's condition hadn't changed, she summoned a doctor.
Throughout this part of the trial there's a lot of character assassination of Kildaire from both Mrs. Bloggins and the prosecutor. Basically, he's only been chief of control for two years whereas Mrs. Bloggins has worked at the Establishment for (by her estimation) "fourteen or fifteen years." Ergo, the jury should take her word above Kildaire's because she's worked there longer, even though it was just as a charwoman. What bugs me is that she's only a witness at all because both times she came into Kildaire's office it was while he was with Rawlinson. Who keeps coming into the boss' office to do cleaning in the middle of the workday while the room is occupied?
The next witness is the incomparably arrogant Dr. Watson Smith. He was the doctor who was summoned to tend to the ailing Rawlinson. He concluded that the assistant controller was poisoned by a prussic acid capsule, and that it was forcibly administered. When defending counsel rightly objects and asks how the hell he even knows this, Smith just goes on a long tangent about what a smartypants expert he is and browbeats Kildaire's lawyer into submission.
And that's only the first murder! The second death is a departmental chief, Royston, whom Kildaire is accused of shooting. After Smith graciously deprives the court of his presence, Royston's assistant Blake testifies that he entered his superior's office to find Terry Kildaire sitting behind Royston's desk holding a gun, with Royston dead on the floor, and that a maniacally grinning Kildaire took a shot at him, too, but missed.
It takes the jury ten minutes to convict Kildaire. Due to the lack of a motive, it is recommend he be sentenced to Long Meadow, an asylum for the criminally insane.
The trial bugged me. The physical evidence means a conviction is a slam dunk, so I'm not sure why the prosecution needed to basically destroy Kildaire's reputation the way they did. Pretty much the only witness who doesn't impugn Kildaire or isn't some kind of insufferable asshole is Blake. Mrs. Bloggins is (with all due respect to people in cleaning jobs all over the world) a self-righteous, nosy bitch with delusions of grandeur who thinks she matters more than the accused because she's worked at the Establishment longer than him, and Dr. Smith is self-evidently high on his own self-importance; he's outright described as considering testifying at the trial as a waste of his precious time.
Also, why aren't the murders of Rawlinson and Royston two separate trials? They happened at different times and the two men were killed in different ways. And just because it's obvious that Kildaire killed Royston, there's very little suggesting he also killed Rawlinson. It feels like they're trying him mostly for Rawlinson, since the trial spends more time on his murder than Royston's, and because the evidence against him in Rawlinson's murder is so thin, they're bringing in the slam dunk, he-obviously-did-it shooting of Royston at the end as a "gotcha" to seal the deal in a circumstantial case with little evidence. Basically, even if he did kill Royston, Kildaire is being railroaded for Rawlinson.
Meanwhile, in a small town near the Research Establishment, "Ticky" George wanders into the Blue Dragon for his usual several glasses of shandy and armed with a weird story about something he witnessed in the woods that night. He's nicknamed "Ticky" because of his obsession with watches, though he doesn't own one, lacks the money to buy himself one, and everyone in town is apparently too jerkish enough to do the poor guy a solid. Anyway, he claims he witnessed a big silver ship come down in the woods the other night and disgorge a bunch of "tin men." The landlord humors him, as do a few of the regulars, particularly the village postman. George is considered the village idiot, you see. Nevertheless, something about his story rings true for the landlord, who presses George for more. In-between sips of shandy, George can only report that the metal men wandered around a bit, then got back in their ship and left.
Meanwhile, at Long Meadow, we're introduced to Dr. Len Williamson, who looks more like a balding Viking than a psychiatrist, complete with a big bushy beard. He and his colleague and former amateur boxer (!) Dr. Bill Coe bring in the recently convicted Terry Kildaire for an interview. Currently, he is in the reception ward, and Williamson wants to know what he ought to do with him. If he's violent, he goes into a padded cell. If not, well, they'll take it from there. Kildaire alternates between being extremely lucid and conversational and suffering from violent fits, during which he complains of headaches. During one of the latter episodes, Coe, examining his head, discovers a tiny surgical scar, despite there being no record of Kildaire having had brain surgery.
He and Williamson file that information away for later and ask Kildaire to explain what happened, at which point we learn that this is the first time anyone ever actually asked him that. Apparently he was never actually questioned by anyone during the investigation, just arrested on the spot after being found with a gun in his hand. And as we saw back during the trial, he was never called to the witness stand. Meaning at no point during either the investigation or the trial was the chief of control of one the country's most important research facilities even asked what happened or why he did it. Considering what we'll learn shortly, methinks Kildaire's got a good lawsuit on his hands against his employers, the police department and the courts. Anyway, according to him, he went for a walk in the woods near the facility after thinking he saw a flying object of some sort land there... and the next thing he remembers, he's in Royston's office holding a gun, with Royston dead on the floor. He doesn't remember shooting him, or firing at Blake, and he certainly doesn't remember poisoning Rawlinson, or his interactions with nosy Mrs. Bloggins. Again, none of this came up at the trial, and apparently Williamson and Coe are the first people he's told any of this to. Which is ridiculous. Even if he hadn't volunteered the information himself, you'd think someone during the investigation or the trial would've asked. And yet Kildaire is clear no one ever did.
Anyway, a suspicious Williamson consults the case file and it becomes his professional opinion that something besides homicidal mania is responsible for what his patient did. He has him x-rayed and it is discovered there is a metallic object roughly shaped like a Rugby football in his brain. A bit of brain surgery later, and the whatsit is delivered to the closest thing Long Meadow has to an electronics expert, Tim Borrow. Borrow examines the thing under a microscope and even manages to open it up, and finds such minute instrumentation inside that he is positive it wasn't made by humans. The most he can determine is it's some kind of transmitter-receiver. A quick call to MI5 brings Colonel Henry Rothman a-runnin'.
Rothman - who "looks like Spencer Tracy" - arrives at Long Meadow with his aide Major Richard Bruce and MI5's resident electronics expert, Professor Gordon (or "Gorden," as it's sometimes spelled) Blain. The trio arrive in the Colonel's long black saloon, which the very hands-on, I'll-do-it-myself-damn-it Rothman drives, having shunned chauffeurs for almost his entire military career. Blain meanwhile is a typical introvert. He knows nothing about sports, politics, religion, or human interaction in general. Just electronics. As for Major Bruce, he's less of a character and more a walking, talking sounding board for Rothman. Someone for him to play off of in scenes where there's nobody else but the two of them. Anyway, the trio arrive at Long Meadow and confer with Dr. Williamson who in turn shows them the doohicky, which Borrow explains has begun making high-pitched noises, confirming his suspicions that its some kind of transmitter-receiver.
Leaving Blain to get to the bottom of things there with his fellow electronics nut, Rothman and Bruce, having been told by Williamson of Kildaire's story, decide to go visit the Establishment. They're particularly interested in the woods around the area where Kildaire claims he witnessed a ship land before blacking out. Rothman isn't entirely ready to admit the possibility of extraterrestrial involvement, but clearly something sinister is afoot. Apparently the two officers are in plainclothes because Rothman introduces himself as George Brown, and nobody ever asks what two military officers are doing poking around. Looking for a guide in the village, they hit the jackpot when the first person they speak to is none other than "Ticky" George. Their questions elicit the second telling of the arrival and departure of the "tin men," and on the promise of Rothman--I mean "Brown" buying him a watch, George takes the two out to where he claims the ship landed.
A Geiger counter wielded by Bruce confirms the earth to be mildly radioactive. Now they definitely know something is up. It is Colonel Rothman's theory that whoever or whatever landed in the forest that night put the weird device into Terry Kildaire's head and made him kill Rawlinson and Royston, most likely to disrupt Britain's atomic research. Again, he is uncertain he's willing to believe in an alien threat, but he is positive a threat exists. After keeping his promise to buy George a watch, the most expensive one in the store, too, although since he forgot his wallet (!) he makes Bruce pay for the dang thing, the Colonel and his aide head off to continue their investigation.
Later that night, the ship returns, disgorging a ton of robots who perform their titular march into the village. Drunk Irish stereotype Freddy (or sometimes "Freddie") O'Flannagan is on another bender. Caught wandering the streets late at night by his lonesome, he is doing his very best to convince Constable Dalrow that he is sober and failing when the two hear the approach of loud, clanking metal footsteps. The tin men amble into town, and Dalrow, with typical detached seriousness, demands to know what they want (he seems to think they're going to or coming from a costume party), prompting one of them to fire on him with a weapon that leaves behind naught but empty clothes and ashes. Witnessing this, Freddy sobers up quick and runs to the local constabulary, where he hurriedly informs Sergeant Richardson of what he witnessed. Deciding to humor him, Richardson accompanies the drunk to where he claims the incident happened. There's no robots... but there is a pile of ashes and bits and pieces of Dalrow's burned uniform, and in the mist, he can hear ominous clanking.
Rushing back to the station, and ensuring Freddy comes with him, Richardson hurriedly phones up the duty inspector at City Police Headquarters...
So far, this is one of Fanthorpe's more sober stories. Yes, killer robots from outer space is goofy, but it lacks the bat-crap insanity of Rodent Mutation and The Alien Ones, and is, shockingly, not filled with a cast of morons. So far, everyone we've been introduced to has been doing nothing but making intelligent decisions. Even supposed "village idiot" George is smarter than half the characters usually encountered in these books. We'll have to see if this quite holds up!
I think I've made March of the Robots sound a lot more interesting than it really is, or at least a lot more straightforward and economical. It's economical only in that it's a very slim book, but a lot of it is just characters talking. Often one character spouting a huge monologue. The trial at the beginning is mostly the prosecuting counsel droning on and on like he's a college professor and the courtroom is his lecture hall. And when defending counsel does speak up, he, too, tends to monologue. The witnesses barely get a word in edgewise. The exception is Dr. Smith, who, when questioned about his credentials, just starts unloading until the defense basically tells him to shut up. And the car ride over to Long Meadow is also basically just Colonel Rothman talking and talking and talking, with Bruce and occasionally Professor Blain piping up to basically just agree with him or prod him to continue.
And a lot of the time, it's information we already know being repeated over and over. Like, we get "Ticky" George's story about witnessing the flying saucer land several times, and Constable Dalrow's death and the events surrounding it are told twice not even a chapter after it actually happened. Like, Dalrow is killed by the robots and Freddy runs away to the station, where he tells Sergeant Richardson, in great detail, what we just read, and then he takes Richardson out to where Dalrow was killed, and then at the slightest hint of the robots, the two beat feet back to the station, where Richardson calls the inspector at Headquarters, and tells him about the incident, meaning, for the second time in less than a couple of pages, we get a detailed retelling of the death of Constable Dalrow in excruciating detail. At least the two times we got George's story about witnessing the robots land were separated by two chapters, one at Long Meadow with Kildaire talking to Williamson and Coe, and then the other of Rothman arriving with Bruce and Bain.
So then we get the third retelling of Constable Dalrow's death, this time from the inspector Richardson calls, who doesn't get a name (in fact, from this point onward, only two other characters get names). He calls his superior and tells him what happened. Then he contacts MI5. Halfway through the call, though, the line goes dead. And since this is the inspector at City Police Headquarters, this means the robots are also invading... um... Fanthorpe actually never identifies where this is taking place, except for "the Midlands." He actively avoids names. For example, when Rothman gets a call from "The Minister" (named Sir Allen), and he is explaining the situation, his dialogue is cut off right before he identifies the city, and it just says he named the city. Like so:
"Right, sir. There's a very strange state of emergency in -" he named the city.
The dialogue just ends and it says Rothman named the city, but the reader isn't actually told. I'm not quite sure why Fanthorpe did this. Why avoid using a real British city? If he's concerned readers will be upset over an actual city getting destroyed by killer robots, why not make up a fake-ass one?
And, no, I have no idea when and why Rothman and Bruce returned to MI5 headquarters. And neither does Fanthorpe, apparently.
Anyway, whichever Midlands city it is is being invaded and communications have been cut off. For some reason, Bruce reckons it might be a hoax (!), but sensible Rothman rids his aide of that nonsensical thought pretty quickly by pointing out that very few hoaxers would have the number to MI5's headquarters, and then they get that call from Sir Allen. What Allen is a minister of is never gone into. Rothman basically recounts the entire plot and sums it up in a single page, with Sir Allen occasionally interrupting to say various lines indicating incredulity or surprise. When he gets to the part about the flying saucer, it turns out Allen isn't entirely surprised, saying the British government has been "half afraid" of the existence of malignant extraterrestrials since the earliest sightings in 1947 and 1948. Rothman advises a full scale military attack against the invaders ("Good heavens!" cries Allen), and then after finishing up with the thoroughly flabbergasted minister, he and Bruce take an armored car and drive on out to "the city" to have a little look-see.
Upon arriving they discover that the entire city has been sealed off, electronically, anyway, meaning no communications in or out. Using the authority given to them by Sir Allen - who may actually be the minister, as in the prime minister, though again Fanthorpe is vague, but still, it's obvious Allen has a lot of pull - Rothman manages to get ahold of several Territorials as well as some Midlands regiments, to say nothing of a small army of regular police forces. Thus assembled, our various law enforcement and military characters begin making their plans. Bruce wants Blaine (whose name is now spelled with an "E" at the end), but he's engaged at Long Meadow, and they discuss how the robots have electronically cut the city off. Radio and telephone communications don't go in, nor do they come out. As for whether anything physical can pass through... apparently nobody's tried it yet, the fraidy-cats, so Rothman and Bruce decide the hell with it and drive up to the barrier in their armored car.
Parking and getting out, they approach. Rothman is positive the field extends below ground, making it a perfect sphere. I'm not sure how or why he knows this, but who am I to question the hero in a Lionel Fanthorpe novel? A rock chucked at the barrier explodes into red hot fragments on contact. Damn. Bruce then tries shooting it with a machine gun, with similar results, leading to this exchange:
"Spectacular effect, sir," remarked the major grimly.
"Spectacularly ineffective, I would say," commented the colonel.
For best effect, just imagine that Rothman and Bruce are portrayed here by Nicholas Courtney and John Levene. It's much more fun imagining that it's the Brigadier and Sergeant Benton trying to punch through the barrier whilst the Doctor is off at Long Meadow assisting Blain(e) and Borrow with the weird alien doohickey.
Anyway, all their chucking rocks at the barrier and shooting it doesn't go unnoticed, and part of it opens, and a robot comes out to confront them. More fun dialogue from Rothman:
"Hello, hello, hello," said the colonel, "something seems to be happening. To use the old technical parlance, 'the enemy are now aware that we have taken offensive action.'"
The robot, described as Frankensteinian, advances towards them ("Good God, look at that!" cries Bruce. "I am looking!" replies Rothman. Seriously, I love these two) and the two officers use both the machine gun and "the field gun" (!) against their attacker with no noticeable results. They don't event dent its metal. Yay, more alien invaders who are bulletproof. The two beat feet back to the armored car and try to escape. As you can very well anticipate, armored military vehicles aren't exactly known for their speed or maneuverability, and in fact the back end of the thing gets zapped and melted by the robot, but nevertheless our heroes manage a quick getaway, hitting fifty miles per hour "and climbing." Maybe they're in a Daimler Ferret? Those are pretty speedy, as far as armored cars go.
Anyway, they manage to get away, sans the armored car's rear end including both of its back tires (so they escaped by driving away on just two front wheels?). Rothman grudgingly compares their efforts to the Ethiopians' attempts to repel the Italians in World War II, and Bruce suggests nuking them. Rothman admits that such a thing might work... but he refuses to contemplate that right now considering that as far as they know there are still people alive in the sealed off city. After this point, Fanthorpe once against seems to have been interrupted by his wife and told to hurry up and finish the damn book because supper is almost ready, because the story rushes ahead to a conclusion here with the remainder of this chapter in particular being nothing but the action, such as it is, being told by an announcer inside the sealed off burg in a news report on TV!
He explains about the city being sealed off by the robots and surrounded by the authorities on the outside. While the Territorials and MI5 figure out how to break in, local law enforcement are doing their best to combat the clanking alien menace, which means they're dying in droves. We do learn that they're led by a superintendent and that a colonel from the Territorials (not affectionately called "Terries" here) is somehow involved. Again, no names. Even though you'd think a friggin' news report would be the place to drop the name of the afflicted city as well as the names of the guys in charge on the ground. Even the announcer never identifies himself. Never goes "Hi, this so-and-so, coming to live, blah, blah, blah." The Reverend must have really been in a rush here!
Anyway, the announcer describes numerous people being zapped into dust by the robots. Which seems to be all they're doing. Just walking around using their death rays to kill people. However, he does have some pretty good advice on how to survive an encounter with them. Apparently, they're really stupid. Earlier, Freddy O'Flannagan survived his brush with them, when Dalrow was killed, by just lying on the ground where the Constable had found him, and the robots ignored him like he wasn't there. From this, the authorities and various citizens have concluded that the robots' vision is based on movement, like the Tyrannosaurus in Jurassic Park. If you don't move, they won't notice you're there. They've only been able to kill so many people because most people's first instinct upon encountering them is either to run or attack them. But the announcer stresses that everyone ought to stay indoors, and, if they do happen to bump into one of the invaders, or vice versa, they should just sorta freeze and hope for the best.
He interviews the police superintendent who gives his opinion that perhaps the robots would be friendly if they hadn't been attacked first. Huh? Hey, buddy, unless Constable Dalrow's flashlight beam counts as an offensive weapon, they fired first. I'll let the fact they preemptively mind-controlled Terry Kildaire into committing double homicide slide for now since I doubt the superintendent is aware of their connection to the recent murders and subsequent trial, but come on. The details surrounding Dalrow's death got repeated up through to the highest levels of power, and it never changed or embellished. From Freddy to Sergeant Richardson to the duty inspector, it was always some variation of "he walked up to them, asked them a question, and got zapped." I know he probably means his men here in the city, not some nobody constable in a rinky dink village, but still; as someone who had to have been in on the game of Telephone earlier (being superintendent of the very same City Police Headquarters Richardson called, and thus the duty inspector's superior), he has to know the details of Dalrow's death and consequently that the robots kill unarmed people unprovoked. Idiot.
Anyway, the interview is apparently being conducted near the flying saucer which is in the city (are there two of them or did the one from the woods move?), and a robot emerges and basically begins making "come here" gestures with its arms. Like a chump, the superintendent immediately interprets that this means the invaders want to talk terms. The TV announcer gives him a microphone, and we get what is basically a riff on the scene in H.G. Wells' The War of the Worlds where Ogilvy, Stent and Henderson approach the Martians waving a white flag and get zapped. Armed with microphone and white flag, the superintendent walks towards the ship. He fares better than Ogilvy's party in War of the Worlds, at least for the time being. Instead of shooting him, the robots confiscate his microphone and take him prisoner. No interview, I guess. And so much for talking terms. I'm not sure what the robots want him for. A hostage? Who knows.
Anyway, with that business out of the way, the announcer then begins interviewing the soon to retire Reverend Paul Smithson who fills up the remainder of the chapter with religious talk.
Then we rush even more quickly to the end as Terry Kildaire awakens from his brain surgery back at Long Meadow, which means the entire plot up 'til now is summarized for him. How he turned out to have a mind-controlling doohickey in his brain, how Colonel Rothman was brought in and went and talked to "Ticky George, and how robots are now invading the Earth, or at least the Midlands. And as more of his memory returns to him, it turns out he didn't kill his colleagues at all, not even under mind control! The gun and prussic acid capsule were his - being chief of control at a laboratory attached to the Home Office means he has to be ready to shoot and kill hypothetical enemy agents and take poison if captured - but he didn't use them, a robot who accompanied him in his zombie-like state back to the Establishment and somehow avoided being seen by anyone did! It was his robot handler who force-fed Rawlinson the capsule and shot Royston, leaving him to take the fall. This feels like Fanthorpe wimping out. Kildaire being made to murder his co-workers while mind-controlled is much more interesting that him just being a patsy. And the idea of one of those clunky clankers slipping in and out of a heavily-guarded research center undetected is goofy as hell.
It's especially unbelievable in the case of Royston. Kildaire says the robot shot him, but then put the gun in his hand and tried to make him shoot Blake when the latter walked in. Meaning there's no way Blake didn't see the robot in the room with Kildaire! Kildaire offers no explanation for how the robot came and went so stealthily or how it was Blake didn't see the dang thing. Blake also gave no indication of behaving strangely at the trial, so I doubt the robots got to him the way they did Kildaire. This whole twist to basically take the blood off of Kildaire's hands screws up so much in what was a pretty straightforward story until now.
Also, Fanthorpe appears to have forgotten to give the robots an actual evil plan. Okay, so they frame the chief of the center for atomic research in England for murder, presumably to disrupt the country's work in that field, suggesting some kind of long-term takeover plan. Only to then land, enter a random village, kill some random constable, then leave and take over a random city and begin indiscriminately killing people with no end goal in mind. Even their taking the police superintendent hostage ends up amounting to nothing.
I'm also wondering, if the potential for the device being removed from his brain and him consequently remembering everything existed, why the robots didn't just make Kildaire shoot himself. Though, of course, then the device might've been found during an autopsy. Either way, the whole thing started because the thing showed up on an X-ray, so you think the robots would've kidnapped Kildaire from the asylum, or after the trial, or something, to prevent its being discovered. I must reiterate that they're kinda dumb for such advanced robotic aliens.
The plan that our heroes come up with is based around the idea that the robots might not know that the mind-controlling device has been found and removed, and that they'll send Kildaire, with the rewired device reinserted into his brain (!), to their flying saucer in the city (evidently it is the same one and just moved from the woods to the city, again making me wonder what the hell the point of their foray into the village was, as all they accomplished there was killing one constable) with a gelignite bomb. Apparently, we learn, the robots are controlled by a central computer, a sort of master brain, inside the ship; they're not individuals, but rather extensions of this one primary intelligence's will. Destroying the ship, and thus the brain, will end the invasion.
So the plan is enacted. Blain(e) futzes with the device and then Coe puts it back in Kildaire's brain. The way it works now, he can receive instructions from the robots, but will be able to resist them. However, they can also pick up on his thoughts as well, so he has to be very careful about what he thinks about. After a meeting with Rothman and some other military and government bigwigs, he finally receives a mental command from the robots to come to the ship (why are they only calling him now?). He is allowed into the city through the electronic barrier and, doing his best mind-controlled zombie impression, walks up to the ship with his gelignite. The robots are still holding that stupid police superintendent prisoner and haven't bothered doing whatever it is they intended to do with him yet. After getting close enough, Kildaire chucks the gelignite into the open door of the ship before the robots realize what is happening, and he and the superintendent run for it. Kaboom! The ship blows up. With the master brain destroyed, all the robots in the city stop working and the barrier comes down, saving the city and the world. Both men are embraced "like Cup Final heroes" (wait, what did the superintendent do besides be a doofus and get caught?).
Oh well. Reverend Fanthorpe offers us this parting thought:
For the moment the danger was past... Have you seen a disc of light in the sky lately?
It's not quite "Keep watching the skies!" but, eh, it'll do.