Sunday, October 05, 2008

Underwater Wasteland

Joseph Rosenberger gets even more way out in his 17th Death Merchant novel, published by Pinnacle in 1976. In the previous book, INVASION OF THE CLONES, Mrs. Camellion's little boy Richard found himself in Africa, where he fought clones of himself created by a mad scientist in the employ of a psychotic dictator. THE ZEMLYA EXPEDITION opens with Camellion stowed away aboard a Soviet submarine, where his mission is to rescue a KGB scientist with a secret she will share only with the United States. After a typically brutal Rosenberger action sequence, the Death Merchant is captured and taken to an immense underwater city built by the Soviets beneath the Arctic Ocean.

Aside from counting the number of times Rosenberger uses the term "pig farmer" to describe a Russian, ZEMLYA is also notable for its political diatribes, including a long section where Camellion and his captor, KGB general Vershensky, lecture one another about government-sanctioned behavioral modification using what I presume to be actual Senate transcripts and magazine articles (ARGOSY, November 1975) to make their points. Rosenberger, judging from his writings, appears to have been far right-wing in his politics, which isn't unusual considering the genre he worked in (Don Pendleton and Ron Stillman are two other men's adventure writers with heavily conservative beliefs).

More importantly, Rosenberger loves his weaponry and longing descriptions of "pig farmers" being blown away. I've never read anyone who enjoyed killing his villains as much as Rosenberger does, as he goes into rich detail about the type of ammo used and the gore left behind. I'd say that his Death Merchant novels are about 50% action scenes; dare I say they might even have too much action?

I do love them though, not just for the outrageous action sequences in which Camellion singlehandedly kills hundreds of opponents, but also for Rosenberger's varied plots that are less predictable than most in the genre. And the books had great painted covers too that were usually consistent with the contents.

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