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Book Review: The Astounding, the Amazing, and the Unknown by Paul Malmont

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History books tell the plight of peoples enslaved by the Nazis, but they also reveal how nations refused to be conquered. As the Second World War draped its way across Asia, the battle between the Nazis and the Russians only came to a stop when Hitler’s Blitzkrieg warfare got bogged down in heavy winter snow against a defiant population used to such severe conditions.

In 1943, World War II raged in Europe and Asia with devastating consequences. England, of course, suffered bombardment after bombardment but like Russian stalwarts, the English refused to allow the Nazis to dare cross the English Channel. America began to prepare for war in 1944. But what was increasingly frightening to the entire world was the dread that Hitler’s scientists were inventing even more deadly weapons that would turn the fate of the war in his favor.

In The Astounding, the Amazing, and The Unknown, Paul Malmont creates his fiction around this terrifying possibility. He brings together two groups of imaginative geniuses: science fiction writers and top scientists — their chore: dream up and create new defenses to protect the United States and other countries battling Nazism.

These two unlikely groups begin cooperating. Before his death, Nikola Tesla had already shown that with enough power, ray-like signals could be sent from his huge tower across the breadth of the Atlantic Ocean. Could similar electromagnetic signals be captured and used as a death ray that would supplant the Army’s rifles? Can these scientists find a way to rearrange atoms and molecules to cloak ships at sea? What if they could discover a way to control the weather on a battlefield to produce mud-slogging roads for the enemy?

At one point in the story, scientist Robert Heinlein pulls back a window drape to see a man standing outside holding two pistols pointed directly at him. It is only when the appearance is explained away as a man-made mirage does Heinlein relax. He is moved when he learns that this normally staged effect was done in broad daylight.

Later in The Astounding, the Amazing, and The Unknown, a navy vessel appears to disappear in a bright green flash, right before the eyes of several Army personnel. Heinlein explains it away as a flash of Saint Elmo’s fire in combination with “natural” optical illusion. However, when the ship reappears several moments later with lightning dashing from its antennae, onlookers find the Saint Elmo’s fire theory extremely far fetched.

So what of these strange delusions? In the end, does this group of imaginative fiction specialists along with the country’s elite scientists uncover secrets that could change the outcome of the Second World War? Will their attempts to develop secret weapons occur in enough time to sidetrack Hitler’s war machine?

I would recommend The Astounding, the Amazing, and The Unknown to readers who love science fiction — who find the unfathomable possible.

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