The Salamander War
Today’s post will be a bit short, recovering as I am from a week plus of Idaho-based debauchery. Well, not “debauchery,” exactly, but we did see a moose. I’m digging in the archives for this one and expanding on some notes I wrote several years ago for Mr. Carr’s masterpiece. I have no idea what context this was written in, who Charles Carr is, or what he tried to accomplish with The Salamander War, but I can’t pass up any book with a cheesy cover proclaiming “A battle fought in the skies of an eerie planet!” I looked up Charles Carr on the Internet, but the only information I could find at the time was a Spanish Wikipedia entry that said, “Charles Carr is a British SF author.” (I don’t speak Spanish, but I am reasonably confident of this translation. I also can’t find the entry now.) More recent searches turn up a few links to free online copies of the book, which seems to imply that the copyright has expired, but may just mean that Carr’s estate doesn’t care.
The Salamander War is better than it has any right to be, in a Roger Corman sort of way, and is best enjoyed without thinking too much about what is going on. I found myself turning bits and pieces of it over in my brain afterwards and finding plenty of holes, but it held together at the time. Even the parts where, if I remember correctly, the world is split into East-West hemispheres without the planet being tidally locked to the sun. (I could be wrong about this, but any book that leaves questions like, “Wait, is that even geologically possible?” deserves whatever misunderstandings it gets.)
I especially enjoyed the Swiss colonists, who didn’t laugh or kiss because “it has no logical purpose.” Good times! A whole planet full of Spocks! And fighting battles! With bad guys who toss fireballs! They are also pacifists, with a substantial faction dedicated to sabotaging the heroes’ defense efforts. Normally I am sympathetic to pacifist ideals, but if random alien creatures were lobbing balls of molten lava at my town, I would be hard pressed to demand communication and engagement. Rest assured, however. (Spoiler alert!) Not only do the traitorous Neville Swiss Chamberlains get what’s coming to them, but their daughters learn about kissing from our dashing (and presumably American) protagonists. My wife pointed out that the portrayal of what I think are Americans is also pretty hilarious. “Ho there! We will battle evil and defend you! On the side, we will teach your fluttering daughters what love really means! Onward, boys!” Finally, Neville Swiss Chamberlains would also be a good name for a band.
If the Gentle Reader has not guessed by now, I will confess to not having a lot to say about this book beyond some jokes. There is a reason why The Salamander War has faded into obscurity, likely taking Carr’s budding career as an author with it. Still, it’s tons of fun in the same way that Syfy original movies are tons of fun. If nothing else, read it for a window into the secret life of the Swiss. There’s more to them than banks and watches!
Rating: The very young playing football. There’s no sense cheering for anything but chaos, as two amorphous blobs of six year olds collide on the pitch. At least the six year olds laugh and kick each other, rather than frowning and calling for dialogue with the enemy.