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The Astounding, the Amazing, and the Unknown: A Novel Hardcover – July 5, 2011

4.1 out of 5 stars 25 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“A rip-roaring adventure . . . Required reading.” The New York Post

“A rollicking adventure . . . Great fun . . . The Astounding is the very definition of a page-turner.” The Onion A.V. Club

“A giddy ride . . . spills, chills and thrills." Time Out New York

“Delightful . . . Madcap . . . It’s so much fun that it virtually defines what light fiction should be.” Library Journal (starred review)

"A 1940s adventure story, full of historical characters and breathtaking near-escapes, this novel will appeal to the little boys in grown-up readers."Newark Star Ledger

“Paul Malmont launched his affectionate and entertaining secret history of twentieth-century American pulp fiction with The Chinatown Death Cloud Peril in 2006. The Astounding, the Amazing, and the Unknown is the second novel in this sequence, and the focus turns to famous science fiction authors including Robert Heinlein and the young Isaac Asimov. Together they tackle the mysteries of Nikola Tesla and winning World War II in an adventure that swoops from romp to chills, from humor to dread. Malmont’s big, lush novel is sly and charming, nostalgic and intriguing fun.” —Katherine Dunn, author of Geek Love

“Paul Malmont’s whirlwind novel celebrates the grand era of science fiction by taking its legendary writers as characters in a wholly original romp through WWII-era technology and intrigue. The Astounding, the Amazing, and the Unknown beams its readers right into its world with all the dazzle of a newly uncovered and improved Tesla transmitter.” —Matthew Pearl, author of The Dante Club

“Watch out, Earthlings! The fathers of science fiction are on the prowl again, trying to save the world from the Nazis in Paul Malmont’s delightful romp. The Astounding, the Amazing, and the Unknown delivers thrills, laughs, intriguing speculation, and even a little romance—much like the best sci-fi. A treat!” —Kevin Baker, author of Strivers Row and Paradise Alley

“Malmont’s funny, zesty, brain-teasing love letter to sf heroes affirms the glory of creativity and science, sacrifice and courage.” Booklist

“A wild trip . . . Malmont lovingly embraces the fact-fiction synthesis employed by the writers he brings to life . . . Fans of the original pulps will surely enjoy the ride.” Publishers Weekly

About the Author

Paul Malmont works in advertising. He lives in New Jersey with his wife and two children. Please visit the author at www.paulmalmont.com. You can follow his blog postings at amazon.com or on Facebook.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; 1St Edition edition (July 5, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1439168938
  • ISBN-13: 978-1439168936
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.3 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #322,226 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

I work in advertising in New York City, though I live in rural New Jersey. I've written a couple of cool novels, with a sequel to the first one on the way. I'm also the writer of the DC Comics version of Doc Savage.

As much as I love writing, I would also dig being a Disney Imagineer - I like the idea of creating virtual story events that put the guest in the starring role. So when you see my favorites, you'll see a lot of Disney stuff.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Malmont's debut novel, The Chinatown Death Cloud Peril really scratched an itch for me. In the same way that Michael Chabon's The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay evoked that sense of wonder of super-heroes and the golden age of comics, Peril was a novel summoned up all the thrills and adventure of the 1930s pulp novel, grounding it in the "real world" fictitious adventures of pulp authors William Gibson and Lester Dent (creators of The Shadow and Doc Savage, respectively).

So I was very excited to receive an advance copy of Malmont's sequel to Peril, The Amazing, The Astounding, and the Unknown. In the same way that Peril captured the spirit of the 30s pulps, Malmont this time focuses on a cast of science fiction writers in the 1940s, including Robert Heinlein, L.Rob Hubbard, and Isaac Asimov, and tells a tale in the spirit of a new era of death rays and aliens -- working these elements into another "real world" historical adventure.

The story does NOT disappoint. Malmont has so much fun with these characters, bringing the men together on a military mission that involves the secret history of Nicola Tesla and Thomas Edison, an imminent Nazi threat, and more. But the novel isn't just a WWII adventure novel. By utilizing these authors, Malmont really dives into the lives of writers, working in the pulps, wanting to write "real books," and all the insecurities that come with it. He also dives deep into why Science Fiction resounds with us, how science can shape fiction and vice versa. To accomplish this WHILE also being a fun, fast-paced page-turner? It's a hell of an achievement.
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Format: Hardcover
The Hollywood pitch for this wonderfully entertaining novel would be: "What if a bunch of science fiction writers had teamed up during WWII to fight Nazis?" Interestingly enough that happened . . . sort of. Isaac Asimov, L. Sprague de Camp, and Robert Heinlein all really did work at the Philadelphia Navy Yard during the war. But they weren't building the sort of weapons they imagined for the pulp magazines their stories appeared in. Malmont imagines that they were--or rather, he takes that as a jumping off point. No, Isaac Asimov doesn't invent an actual positronic robot brain. And L. Ron Hubbard, who soon joins the crew, doesn't make contact with aliens. The book is more subtle than that. It doesn't make superheroes out of the writers. It takes their real-life experiences and twists them around the mystery of Nicola Tesla--who just might have actually built a superweapon. Yes, there is pulp-flavored adventure and cameos by historical figures (including, in one inspired and inspiring scene, Albert Einstein), but what really makes the book is the heros' characterizations. If you've read Damon Knight's The Futurians: The Story of the Science Fiction "Family" of the 30's That Produced Today's Top SF Writers and Editors, Asimov's autobiography In Memory Yet Green: The Autobiography of Isaac Asimov, 1920-1954,or Pendle's Strange Angel: The Otherworldly Life of Rocket Scientist John Whiteside Parsons you'll love this.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I really enjoyed Mr. Malmont's last foray into the world of the pulps, The Chinatown Death Cloud Peril, and, though the Shadow writer Walter Gibson and Doc Savage writer Lester Dent are back for part of the story here, this time around the focus is on a different set of authors. As the title implies to fans of the era, science fiction authors like Robert Heinlein, L. Sprague de Camp, Isaac Asimov, and L. Ron Hubbard take center stage now.

The story is set in the midst of World War II. Heinlein is in charge of a group of science fiction writers/ researchers charged with turning science fiction weapons into reality. They work diligently albeit mostly unsuccessfully, until rumors of work by the recently deceased Nikola Tesla comes to the group's attention. Then they are plunged into a series of intrigues that ultimately push the boundaries of science.

It's not a bad plot--it's hard to go wrong by delving into the genius of Tesla. On the other hand, this novel doesn't really hold up to The Chinatown Death Cloud Peril. For me, part of that is personal. I was obsessively interested in golden age science fiction when I was a boy. I know a lot more about Hubbard, Heinlein, and, in particular, Asimov, than I do about Gibson and Dent. This makes is a lot harder for me to be convinced by a fictional portrait of these authors.

On the other hand, there are a number of other reasons why this novel doesn't work as well. Most importantly, The Chinatown Death Cloud Peril read like a Shadow adventure. Using Gibson and Dent to present an homage to the pulps works very well. This novel does not read like classic pulp science fiction and so has to stand on its own merits. This is much harder to accomplish and Mr. Malmont doesn't quite achieve it.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
What if a group of sci-fi magazine writers were asked by the government to come up with secret super weapons for their troops during WWII? What if these writers just happen to include Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, and L. Ron Hubbard? Then you would have a truly amazing novel which is just what Paul Malmont has! Further, these gentlemen really were recruited by the U.S. Government to work for the Navy during WWII. Malmont uses many historical sources to write his fictional account of this group and their activities during this time period. Plus we get a peek into their personal lives, i.e., erotic rituals (involving L. Ron Hubbard), marital unhappiness (Robert Heinlein), marital difficulties (Isaac Asimov), and marital happiness (the De Spragues and the Dents). This is really an exciting and gripping novel.

Not to mention, this group gets involved in trying to figure out Nikola Tesla's Wardenclyffe Tower to find out if it was a super weapon and not just a giant antenna broadcasting system. Following the clues of Tesla's leads them on many adventures and misadventures which are just too much fun to describe here. Not to mention reading about Asimov as a young man, they call him "the kid" in the novel, is really exciting. In fact reading about all these characters outside of what is generally known about them was a real enlightenment.

I have to admit I couldn't follow most of the science in this novel but it didn't take away for me the reading experience. Plus the weird dreams L. Ron Hubbard has are just too far out for me to comprehend; otherwise, it was a perfect novel. Malmont shows the strong personalities of these characters and remains sympathetic to them throughout. If you know anything at all about these authors and have read or thought of reading their work, then you will love this novel. I can't give it a high enough recommendation.
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