Monday, July 14, 2014

The Green God

THE GREEN GOD is a recent collection featuring two of L. Ron Hubbard's pulp stories set in the tumultuous world that was China in the 1930s. The title story, "The Green God", is of some historical interest because it was the first Hubbard story to appear in the pulps, in the February 1934 issue of THRILLING ADVENTURES. It's a very fast-paced yarn about an American intelligence agent's desperate search for a fabulously valuable stolen idol in order to prevent riots from destroying the city of Tsientin.

The breathlessness of the tale actually sort of works against it. It might have been more effective if Hubbard had slowed down the action a bit and delivered a little more characterization. The hero is pretty much a cipher, notable only for his ability to absorb punishment. But the story is entertaining, no doubt about that.

"Five Mex for a Million", which appeared less than two years later in the November 1935 issue of TOP-NOTCH, is much better. The narrator, American soldier of fortune Royal Sterling, is on the run from the authorities for the self-defense killing of a Chinese official who tried to kill him, when he comes into the possession of a mysterious locked chest. What's in the chest? Why, a beautiful White Russian princess, of course, whose kidnapping ties in with an attempt to take over a big chunk of Mongolia controlled by her warlord father. Oh, and there's a connection in the on-going war with Japan, too, that could change the course of history.

This is pure pulp storytelling at a high level, packed with action and color. It would have made a great Thirties adventure movie starring Gary Cooper or Randolph Scott, and it's one of the best Hubbard pulp stories I've encountered so far. Taken together with "The Green God", it nets this reprint collection a high recommendation from me.

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