Anytime a modern book comes out that is hailed as retro science-fiction, it’s going to get my attention. Throw in the tag, “Rockets. Robots. Death Rays. Mad Science. The future that never was is back,” and the expectations rise exponentially. I mean, come on! Rockets, robots, AND death rays? I’m all in!
Just out today from Tor Books, the debut novel by retro-futurist illustrator Bradley W. Schenck titled Slaves of the Switchboard of Doom – A Novel of Retropolis hits the shelves.
Those familiar with the visual artwork of Bradley W. Schenck and the extensive library of images found at his Retropolis website already know that this world of tomorrow differs from contemporary speculative fiction in that the future actually takes a step back in time. Those new to Schenck’s imaginative illustrations are in for a treat as examples of his visual talents are scattered throughout this novel.
Loyal to the Retropolis universe, in Slaves of the Switchboard of Doom, imminent technology has more of a vintage look that combines the rustic science of popular pulp literature many of us grew up with and just enough modern satire to draw the interest of those new to the genre. Readers will have to keep up with the brisk plot and not take offense that some of the characters seem more like caricatures of those found in classic pulp science fiction, but the end result should still be satisfying.
Each of the 21 chapters becomes a unique individual story that accumulates into a larger adventure. Perhaps the best way to show probable readers the author’s style would be by showing the eye-opening chapter titles:
- The Temple of the Spider God
- The Secret of the Robot in the Attic
- Eyrie of the Hairless Engineer
Journey to the Alley of Abomination
- The Drunken Tourists of Deception
- The Savage Planet of Paradox
- Revenge of the Cashier of Terror
- Zombie Invaders from Outer Space
- The Sleeping Sculptor of the Asteroids
- Escape from the Dungeon of Despair
- The Showroom of the Robots
- Battle in the Pneumatic Wind
- Onslaught of the Rampaging Rockets
- The Pulsating Parrot of Fear
- The Forbidden Laboratory
- Hour of the Diffracted Doctor
- The Switchboard of Doom
- Return of the Plumber of Prophecy
- The Fivefold Scintillation of Sirius
- Attack of the Giant Robots
- The Cypher of the Secret Laboratory
In all, Slaves of the Switchboard of Doom by Bradley W. Schenck is a fun read if you accept the over-the-top character development and bouncing plot-line. It is an ambitious attempt at a first-time novel that at times seems more suitable for younger readers, but there is just enough substance to give hope that the author’s literary talent will only get better with future novels.