Purple Aces by Robert J. Hogan
My rating: 1 of 5 stars
I am a fan of the pulps and I've been reading Doc Savage for years, so I write this review with the knowledge that these books were written quickly and not meant to be more than fun adventurous yarns. So why is it that Doc Savage appeals to me and this was a grind?
First, there are no interesting characters. G-8 is bland and has virtually no personality whatsoever. His two colleagues, Bull Martin and Nippy Weston are pretty one-dimensional and yet they're more interesting than our lead. G-8's manservant, Battle, takes everything literally to the point of being absolutely absurd. Adding to his caricature is his use of "sir" at the end of almost every sentence to the point of becoming unbearable.
Second, the action isn't very interesting. The description of the aerial combat quickly became redundant. There are three of four major aerial scenes, but they all more or less read the same. G-8 is supposed to be a master of disguise, but his disguises all seemed to be based on the number of scars he would place on his face.
So that leaves the nefarious plot. The initial idea, that the enemy has somehow found a way to turn allied pilots against their own country and leaves them with a purple spade on their face, was a nice pulpy idea. But even that gets sidelined. A mad scientist develops a technique to turn people and animals into their opposites, but he destroys the method before the enemy can use it. So instead they just hypnotize the pilots. A rather bland idea considering the alternative. Lastly, once the hypnotist is killed, the spell is magically broken on everyone he hypnotized, as though he were the head vampire in Lost Boys. (Three pilots who volunteered to a suicide run simply don't do it once the hypnotist is killed even though they would have no way of knowing he died.) Unfortunately, that was the most interesting part of the book and it wasn't very interesting. They took their one good idea and didn't even use it.
The one thing I did like was that there was a little continuity in that they referenced their previous adventures and the mad Doktor Krueger, the villain the first adventure, reappears.
Sadly, I cannot recommend this to even the most ardent pulp enthusiast. It simply wasn't very good.
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