Space Probe 6: Nightmare on Vega 3 (by Charles Huntington)

“Nightmare” doesn’t begin to describe it…


I’ve written numerous movie reviews, but this is the first time I’ve felt obligated to review a book. Obligated, in a “Look out! That man is about to throw a bucket of flesh eating bacteria on you!” kind of way. My opinion has always been not to criticize (in print) a book unless I knew without question I could write a better one.

Gentle Surfer, that day has arrived.

I acquired Nightmare from a former friend of mine. It appeared to be a classic, Heinlein-style pulp novel: the cover depicted a spaceman wielding a smoking light-saber (huh?), who had just blasted open someone’s skull to reveal some kind of anime’ tentacle-monster beneath. Okay, maybe not exactly Heinlein. But I thought it would be fun.

Passing a kidney stone is fun; this was painful.

The Space Probe 6 series features buff spaceman Matt Foyt and his intrepid sidekick Intra-Vehicular Android Navigator 3-69(M), aka Ivan (seriously). This is the point at which I should have closed the book. From there onward it gained momentum in a train-wreck sort of way: much as I wanted to look away, I could not–my eyes scanning line after line of text, the like of which has never before appeared in non-vanity print. Take a swig of Pepto-Bismol and check out some samples:

Action: As Matt was almost reaching Megnus, he was struck on the head and shoulders by a crate that had been hurled by the rawboned thug from the other side of the small room.

Technical: “Sequential system operative for automatic launch sequence,” Ivan reported to Matt.

Love: Matt returned the kiss and knew how she felt. It was not a happy thought to him that he would never see Ryana again after he blasted off Alcentar.

Sex: [Her large breasts] were full, perfectly shaped, and thrusting at him.

Now for the “story” itself. I’ll include page numbers, lest you think I’m making anything up.

Matt works for the Federated Space Agency (page 112), cruising the universe in his starship Scorpio at speeds up to warp factor twenty (page 8). Ivan says androidal stuff like, “That does not compute” (page 7). Matt lands on Vega 3, a planet where rape, murder, and assault are part of everyday life, and the government prevents victims from using lethal force in self-defense (much like Chicago or Washington D.C., but without pro football). After an encounter with a pterodactyl (page 14), Matt loses his memory and wanders the streets of Alcentar, a major city. In the course of his adventures, Matt fights off rodents of unusual size (page 52), gets into about two dozen fistfights with the locals (multiple citations); screws the lovely Ryana 2435, a native Alcentarn with huge breasts (many, many citations); and kills most of Alcentar’s population by incineration or bacteriologic gas (pretty much the entire novel). I guess the Federated Space Agency has yet to jump onto the Prime Directive bandwagon.

Struggling to regain his memory, Matt tries to protect Ryana from being murdered by her spurned lover Megnus 3712, save Ryana’s mother from mandatory execution on her 60th birthday, and rescue her sick brother from almost certain death. He fails at all three, but at least he has the best sex of his life in the process.

And for the record, no tentacle-brained aliens ever appeared in the book. (If something wasn’t good enough to appear in Star Trek or Lost in Space, then by God it wasn’t good enough for Nightmare!)

In summary, this book is the Plan 9 from Outer Space of novels. But at least in Plan 9, Bela Lugosi had the decency to die before it was completed. Charles Huntington showed his audience no such compassion.

The most astonishing aspect of the book is that it’s a sequel! Both creations were foisted upon the unsuspecting world by Award Books in New York. I could find no Internet references to a third; I imagine after Nightmare hit the shelves, the citizens of the Big Apple took up pitchforks and lanterns, stormed the publishing house and dragged out the publisher, covered him with hot tar and chicken feathers, chained him to a railroad tie, threw him into the Hudson River, then returned to the building, burned it to the ground, buried the ashes, salted the earth on which it had stood, and staked the author’s head on a pike as a warning. But being New Yorkers, they might not have been so polite.

(Sidenote: My Internet search did turn up something called the Deep Space Probe 6-Speed Butt Plug. I’ll leave you to draw your own inferences.)

I feel I must apologize to Mr. Heinlein for thinking anything in this book might have been in any way reminiscent of anything Mr. Heinlein ever wrote, thought, or dreamed in his darkest nightmares. Indeed, I apologize for even mentioning him in the same article as Nightmare on Vega 3. In fact, I think Congress should pass a federal law stripping Charles Huntington of the first letter of his last name, lest some lone copy of his work escape destruction and end up in some roach-infested used-book store in the same section with any book ever written by Heinlein.

Indeed, my greatest fear in writing this review is the infinitesimal chance that it could lead to a demand for Nightmare to reappear in print, much like Mystery Science Theater 3000 did for Manos: The Hands of Fate. This is scarcely the legacy for which I hope to be remembered:

“Terry Burlison? Wasn’t he the guy who invented the zero-point energy cell, eliminating all pollution and providing inexpensive, safe energy for the entire world, freeing billions from poverty and ushering in a new era for humankind?”

“Yeah, but he also led to the reprinting of the Space Probe 6 series.”

“The bastard!”

So, please, please, please do not try to find this book. Do not search for it, do not call your local used book stores, do not mention it to others, do not even think too loudly about it. If you are so full of self-loathing that you want to read it for yourself, contact me and I’ll send you my copy.

I’ll even pay the shipping.


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