November 7, 2014

Death Merchant #21: The Pole Star Secret

A few months after his adventure in India, Richard Camellion is headed to the North Pole, in search of a second complex built by the Sandorians, a race of aliens that arrived on Earth more than 10,000 years ago.

The Pole Star Secret is the dull continuation of the story begun in DM #20: Hell in Hindu Land. Two scientists have been kidnapped from a Russian weather station near the North Pole and are now being questioned aboard the Halsey, a U.S. nuclear submarine. They claim there is a miles-long undersea tunnel that opens up into a hollow area 100 square miles in diameter under the polar ice caps. A small artificial sun makes it possible for a rain forest climate to flourish. And there exists a domed building that was apparently built by the aliens.

The CIA men are incredulous, but Camellion, because of his mission in India in which he saw the bodies of more than a dozen aliens, knows the Russians are likely telling the truth. (Fashion Alert: When we first see the Death Merchant, he is "dressed in a scarlet jumpsuit, black Wellington boots, and ... eating raisins"!) Camellion asks if the artificial sun shines with a blue light and he is told, from one of the surprised scientists, that it does. He realizes the light is similar to the one he saw glowing in the secret room at the monastery in India. So with the help of the Russian scientists, the Halsey locates the tunnel, travels through it, and come out in what the Russians have dubbed Thulelandia.

The Death Merchant and 14 others leave the sub and travel in rafts to the shore and start exploring the "island". The air is normal and the temperature is a constant 74 degrees, with no wind. There is a "ceiling" 3,000 feet above them, dotted with giant stalactites. (It's never stated whether the aliens created Thulelandia or whether it was some natural phenomenon that they discovered and exploited/expanded.)

Suddenly, Camellion spies a lone Russian soldier on the trail ahead and quickly shoots him. This kicks off a battle between the DM et al. and roughly two dozen Russians. Camellion and the others wipe out the "pig farmers" (of course), but he feels there is a larger Russian force somewhere on the island, probably at the dome. And so one Halsey crew member climbs a tree, spies the dome in the distance, and off they go. At the dome, there is a very long fight sequence (14 pages) that includes a lot of hand-to-hand combat. Rosenberger describes it all in painstaking detail, and in his unique style. Various "boobs", "half-wits" and "Siberian stupids" are unceremoniously "kicked into Deathland". Rosenberger refers to one dead Russian as "the ding-dong from vodkaville".

After killing all of the Russians, Camellion and the others approach the domed building. But there is some kind of force field around it. They toss a hand grenade at the building and as it nears one of the sides, it simply vanishes! At this point, Rosenberger totally cops out and has Camellion simply decide to turn around, contact the Halsey, and leave Thulelandia. He says, "I think we had better get out of here ... [It's] too much for us." Camellion would rather go back and attack the Russian weather station because there might be some information there the U.S. can use. So, without even a perfunctory attempt to enter the domed building, that's the end of the aliens subplot!

While Camellion and his group are attacking the weather station, the Halsey goes back, sinks a second Russian sub, and then uses 11 torpedoes to seal off the tunnel to Thulelandia forever with millions of tons of rock. They burst in with maximum firepower, slaughter a bunch of Russians, grab a few hostages, and head back through the freezing cold and snow ("colder than the bare ass of a Canadian well digger") to the waiting sub. Rosenberger never mentions Camellion getting any papers or information of any kind from the weather station.

Throughout the book, and especially in the beginning, Rosenberger offers way too much information on the operation of a nuclear submarine, the various jobs to be done, how crew members communicate, what missiles are on board, etc. He also includes a lot about deep-sea diving, including too much talk of what clothing needs to be worn. And Rosenberger's obsession with Lee Jurras continues. The book is dedicated to him and he is mentioned several times throughout the story, including a two-page conversation (!) Camellion has with a submarine crew member about Jurras's various amazing firearm inventions.

Here and there, Camellion gets deep and profound.
"The purpose of life is to reach death. Birth and death are joined together by life, a period of time. So the only reason for our existence must be to prove that time exists. But the only positive thing man discovers in life is that time is eternal. It's like the logics of mathematics. The irony is, though, that in eternity there is no time."

"Death is the ultimate of all experience - or the birth of one into eternity, depending on what brand of metaphysics one believes in."

"Too many symbols can and do cloud the face of reality, just as too many saints can cause sanctity to fall into disrepute!"
Camellion, musing to himself about prayer:
How foolish were the bipeds crawling around on the speck of a planet called Earth. Since Cro-Magnon days a divinity of some sort, either perceived by mankind's sapience, deliberately created in his own image, or inspired by respect for what he cannot comprehend, has been man's primordial and primary object of special prayers. But for most people a divine auditor is essential to psychological self-confidence - Just as little children need Santa Claus. And so throughout the relatively brief period of recorded time, prayer has become an approach to suprahuman deity in word or thought, and this custom has been reinforced by centuries of tradition. Yet I and others know better, don't we, old buddy Death?
In the book's intro, a quote from Camellion mentions a "partnership with Azrael", who is (according to Wikipedia) the Archangel of Death (or retribution) in some traditions and folklore. ... Camellion also comments on his nickname: "I dislike that term. It would imply that one could sell death, which is impossible."

Rosenberger also has members of the Halsey blurt out political/social comments completely out of the blue:
Slipping on a camouflaged head net, Earl Wolfe muttered as if talking to himself, "Come to think of it, I don't know why we're down here risking our butts for Washington. Those shit-ass politicians aren't much better than the dudes in the Kremlin. Bullshit to all the propaganda jazz about the 'land of opportunity'! Even a moron can see that the U.S. is a rich man's nation. The rich get richer, the little guy keeps paying higher and higher taxes, and the poor keep getting hungrier! Screw 'em all!"
No one comments on this outburst, not even Camellion. The scene simply continues as though he had said nothing. Then, thirty pages later, there is this exchange:
"I hope the brass in Washington will appreciate what we've accomplished here today," [Colwin Storms] said, "especially our Fearless Leader in the White House. Naturally he won't. That would be expecting too much of the half-wit. He's so damned stupid he actually thinks the Soviet Union will keep its agreements."

"Yeah, it's a great country," Earl Wolfe laughed. "While senators retire on fifty-thousand-dollar-a-year pensions, millions of old people have to eat on a buck a day! But hell, it's still the land of opportunity. In what other nation can a dumb slut shack up with a U.S. senator and then become a celebrity by bragging to the public how often she rolled in the sheets with the dirty old fart?"
(I have no idea to what specific event Wolfe could be referring; the book was published in March 1977.)

And 18 pages after that:
Colonel Hurdbetter burst out laughing. "Claffin, you should be president of the United States! You're an absolute genius at being out of touch with reality. The idiot in the White House makes speeches about prosperity while conveniently ignoring the fact that twenty million Americans haven't enough to eat."
Rosenberger even has the Russians get into it, with one of the soldiers guarding the dome against the approaching Americans thinking:
Damned Amerikanski pigs! But what could one expect of a nation who didn't take care of its poor but discriminated against its white population in favor of black storskyi! Christian hypocrites! They professed to pray but never practiced those prayers. Stupid God lovers. Savages with dollar signs in their eyes!
The idea of blacks getting everything handed to them for free while whites are discriminated against has been expressed in several previous Death Merchant volumes. It seems like a core Rosenberger belief.

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