Thursday, July 7, 2011

Yellowed Pages: The Wilk Are Among Us by Isidore Haiblum

Buried under piles of pulpy, yellowed copies of sci-fi and fantasy lit. Giaco reads and waits. The first Thursday of every month he’ll attempt to review an ancient relic from an ancient time (aka crappy genre fiction from the 70’s and 80’s). Stay with him as you journey into space, caves, voids and dungeons. Unfortunate side effect: from this point on you’ll smell of old books. 

Origin Story 

This month I'll be talking about another oddity I found at a dusty old used book store. Crammed into the "fantasy" section The Wilk Are Among Us beckoned to me. And judging by the cover this could, potentially, be a fantasy novel. Is that guy with the tentacles some mystical creature? Some wizard shifting shape? I had hoped so, but it was  hard, strange sci-fi all the way.

The most interesting aspect about my review of this book is that it's, in a way, an exclusive. Well, as much as you can call a review of a book from 1971 an exclusive. But I've searched far and wide and I see no reviews of this book. No one's talked about it. No one's reviewed it. I've only found one synopsis and Amazon only has two copies for sale (without even any user reviews). In a world where even a book like The Flying Sorcerers has a wikipedia page, this is a rarity. So join me as I talk for the first time online about this weird little book about aliens, tentacles and Earthlings.

The Plot (As Best I Can Figure) 

Our hero is a tentacled creature named Leonard. He's a galactic sociologist and when we first meet him he's hard at work studying dangerous beings from around the galaxy. His race of tentacled beings keep a sampling of their worst enemies on a quarantine planet. When a strange, hairy beast attacks Leonard with a speed and power he's never before encountered we see his "automatics" go to work.

Implanted deep inside him are a number of useful automatic protocols. He can move at double or triple speed. He can communicate with his comrades on his home planet through "the ether" in his mind. He can even use a mind translator to learn new languages or read another being's mind.

During the battle with the hairy being he attracts some other nasties from the jail house planet. A Nill, which can control one's mind (and looks like a horse), a Hunter, which turns peaceful creatures into a bloodthirsty mob (and looks like an eagle), and ten Wilk. The Wilk, who as mentioned above are very much among us, are creatures perfectly adept at taking over societies. Leonard assures the reader that he can normally handle a Hunter or a Nill or even ten Wilk, but put them all together with this unknown hairy being? No good. During the struggle his teleporter is knocked to the ground and triggered, sending all fourteen beings off to another world.

Can you guess which world they all teleport to? Earth! 1970's Earth! And guess what the Wilk look just like? Humans! Leonard assumes he's landed on a planet of Wilk because his automatics have turned him into the dominant species. He's now, on the outside, a human man. Most of the novel follows Leonard trying to round up the Wilk.

In the meantime he is aroused by the sight of a naked human woman and momentarily reverts to his squiddy natural self. He uses his teleporter and is transported into a machine world where strange creatures constantly push levers. A cult grows around him, believing him to be "The Tentacled One" and "The Godhead." He goes to Italy, Paris, NYC and Texas. He catches two Wilk, uncovers conspiracies, and dreams about a human named Billy Feldman. 

Spoilers!!! In the end things get a bit complicated. The Hairy Being was a being from another dimension, so the huge computer database they call "The Wiz" had never heard of it. The machine world was their home base in a separate dimension. They wanted Leonard's teleporter so they used viewing machines to spy on him and Billy Feldman, who ends up with the teleporter in the future and that somehow creates a sort of mind link between Leonard and Feldman. I don't know. In the end he captures half of the Wilk and the other half give up and he's still stuck on Earth. 

Overall Impressions 

I really wish the end didn't fall apart the way it did. I enjoyed this book. It moved at an interesting clip and seemed to head somewhere. The author seemed to pace his action fairly well. The idea of automatics was inspired and really added a lot of depth and ability to the character. I really like it when my heroes have a good arsenal of weapons/powers at the ready. No one likes wimpy A New Hope Luke, right? Don't you prefer Return of the Jedi Luke? All dressed in black and force-crazy and ready to kick ass?

But in the end this book gets too "explain-ey." The end of the book proper features Leonard giving some of his power to a human, but we don't know toward what end (or what, exactly, is going on). Then we get an epilogue which is just Leonard, in his mind through the ether, debriefing his bosses on his home planet. He explains that they caught the Hunter and the Nill, why on Earth wouldn't you show that in a scene!?

All in all it's worth a read if you can find it in an old bookshop and it only costs a buck. Don't order it, don't search it out, but if you happen upon it you'll probably enjoy it. 

Wait, They Said That? 

I'll leave you with some words of wisdom from our tentacled friend! Here Leonard talks about the Hairy Beings in their alternate dimension. Really, though, this could be an Earth axiom: 
"These creeps looked like a nightmare, all right; but as the old saying goes, once a creep, always a creep."