First of four in the series. #2 is “The Rings Of Tantalus” (1975), #3 is The War Games Of Zelos” (1975) and #4 is “The Venom Of Argus” (1976). Calling all pulp fans…the series is about a group of six humans and seven robots that check out planets for colonizations. Keep your ray gun handy for escapist fun.
Our heroes are from the UN group Extra-Solar Planets Evaluating and Normalizing Department (ExPEND). They’re led by James Conrad. He was a Captain but thanks to a court martial he got busted down to Commander. He disobeyed orders in attempting to save some lives but ended up costing some.
His second in command for this mission is Surgeon Lt.Indira Smith. She lost both legs in a horrendous experience in Brazil and her boyfriend committed suicide. The team is rounded out by Lou Andreas who killed a bunch of children while speeding in his turbocar, Fidel Batista. a political assassin who was spending life in prison, Elizabeth James, a Welsh biologist who tried to bring down Parliament, Chantana LeGros, a chemist who was serving a death sentence for poisoning two husbands and Kurt Kawango, an ecologist with a violent history.
The Kawango character is the usual combination of a black man who likes to put on his team with Uncle Tom talk but has a genius IQ. They all know what he’s doing and don’t take it seriously. In 1974 these types of characters were all over books, movies and TV. Guess their creators thought since they were having fun putting everyone on the reader/viewer would too. It gets real annoying.
They all head for Altair IV, named Kratos. Along for the ride are robots Mark, Luke, John, Peter,Paul and Mathew. Before they get there Indira has to perform a heart transplant on Kwango.
The surface is covered with huge ruts. Conrad wants to find out if they’re a natural formation or created by a life form. One of the robots is destroyed when it falls into a pit. Then Conrad sees a huge spiral mound. It sounds like there’s a heart beating underground.
His answer is on it way in the form of a Deathworm. It’s got seven eyes and weighs three tons. Check it out on the cover. It’s not alone and later on its friends come to call.
This is the kind of book you’ll finish before you know it. If you’re in the mood for SF light then this will fill the bill.