"Armageddon - 2419 A.D.": The First Appearance Of Buck Rogers!

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amazingstories1928.pngPublished in the August 1928 issue of the pulp magazine Amazing Stories, Philip Francis Nowlan's novella Armageddon - 2419 A.D. is chiefly notable as the work that introduced the classic (1929-1967; 1979-83) comic strip character "Buck Rogers".  It's recent inclusion in the new Big Book of Adventure Stories (edited by Otto Penzler; click here to reserve our copy online) is a great reminder of how imaginative and delirious pulp science fiction could be.

Armageddon -2419 A.D. is related in first person narration by Anthony Rogers (called "Buck" only in the comics and subsequent radio, movie serial and television incarnations), a WWI vet and troubleshooter for the "American Radioactive Gas Corporation" who, in 1927, passes out from said gas in a coal mine.  Awakening in the year 2419, nearly 500 years later, "Tony" discovers that the United States was overrun by the Russians and the "Mongolians" (yep, it's the "Yellow Peril" again!), with the Russians in turn betrayed by the latter.  America winds up dominated by the Mongolian "Hans", with its citizens forced to form  commune-like "gangs" led by "bosses".  With the kind of pluck only a guy from the 20th century could possess, Tony and his newfound companion Wilma Deering manage to bring together the gangs and manages to strike back at the Hans while also uncovering a group of traitors as well.

The story  pretty much reflects the attitudes of it's time.  There's the inherent fear of foreigners (the Hans), the potentially attractive political set-up of the gangs (think Tammany Hall mixed with a more benign version of the Capone mob) and the "might-makes-right" attitude that enables Tony/Buck and the Americans to stand up to the Hans.  Though Nowlan's prose is wordy and overly descriptive at times, the pace really starts to pick up around chapter three, when the Hans first attack the camp site of Tony and Wilma's gang.  And those cool but (now) dated devices.  Wilma carries a device not unlike a cell phone, Tony gets a disintergrator gun that literally blows up things without making a sound, and they and their fellow gang members fly around with the use of anti-gravity belts. Taken in the right context however, Armageddon - 2419 A.D. is great fun to read.

7-8-2011 12-15-26 PM.pngIn coming posts, I'll also be reviewing other selections from the Big Book of Adventure Stories.  Stay tuned. 

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Ed published on July 8, 2011 11:48 AM.

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