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LAND OF THE GIANTS flight of fear novel: chapters 1-6 review
LAND OF THE GIANTS HARDBACK NOVEL-FLIGHT OF FEAR
BY CARL HENRY RATHJEN
COVER BY FERNANDO DA SILVA
PUBLISHED BY WHITMAN PUBLISHING DIVISION CO.
1969, 14 CHAPTERS, 212 PAGES
It may be difficult to review a novel that one relishes so but it is not impossible. It isn't because each and every word about the seven main characters (and Chipper, their dog) is so darned perfectly in character to the television show. It isn't because the writer not only brings out the TV counterparts' personalities and actually adds an even greater dimension of humanity. It isn't because the book presents dozens of situations from one point of view during the action, then re-presents that action from one or more other points of view (including from the giants' views) without becoming repetitious or dull. It isn't because each Giant is introduced in a bizarre, almost alien way (from the Earthers point of view), then developed humanly or menacingly (depending on the character). It isn't the cleverly developed sub plot of Dr. Bart Enderle and his fiance. It is difficult to review because there is almost nothing negative to write at all and what minor differences there are (such as Val described as a blond) are too trivial to dampen the enjoyment of the book. Rathjen holds honors for the best LAND OF THE GIANTS spinoff and, in fact, actually betters the premise. FLIGHT OF FEAR may be more exciting and entertaining than any of the episodes, although that is no mean feat and is arguable. Being intimate with the series, enhances the enjoyment of the book as opposed to someone who is only somewhat aware of the show and then read the book.
The surrealistic cover has the characters running toward the spaceship (with one of the men helping Valerie) out of what appears to be a windstorm or a fire. The cover seems to have a pastoral-like color arrangement and is very nice. The back cover features five of the humans running, one man pulling a falling girl. The inside covers both show giant footprints with five of the group, including Valerie, standing around and in the prints. Both paintings and illustrations give the LAND OF THE GIANTS feel to the book, even though it is sometimes difficult to determine which little person is which. For 14 chapters, any LAND OF THE GIANTS fan will be entertained, yet the book can be enjoyed by readers not familiar with the series, casual adventure readers, and science fiction buffs. As stated before, knowing the show from TV, helps nurture appreciation for the book.
Of interest to fans are certain differences from the TV version: Fitzhugh has not revealed to anyone that he is not a real Navy Commander as he did to Barry in the first episode THE CRASH. A minor difference is that some of the others occasionally call Fitzhugh by his first name, "Alex," which rarely, if ever occurred on the TV show. None of these changes or oversights detract from FLIGHT OF FEAR.
FLIGHT OF FEAR-CHAPTER ONE SYNOPSIS
TITLE: THE SEARCHERS--runs from page 9 to page 21
Steve Burton lay in a half dream state awaiting a wake up call from Intra Space Airlines. His present 1983 flight would be a parabolic trajectory through space and back down again to another spot. This would take only 41 minutes---to fly from LA to London. Steve thought about how his late father, a jetliner pilot, would have marveled at this, had he lived to see it. His dad had flown from LA to New York. A rumbling sound was waking Burton up instead. He looked up at a low curved ceiling which was not his LA bachelor apartment, nor his London hotel room. He was really in 703 passenger compartment and the year was 1984.
Steve's memory flooded back: he recalled the solar time space disturbance and the first crash landing in this land of giants. At first he thought he had a head injury that affected the cranial nerves controlling his sense of sight. He recalled the planet where he and the other humans that were with him were only six inches tall to the natives of this giant world. Some among the giant people regarded them as insects, others as scientific curios to be studied and dissected, and other giants whispered tales similar to legends on Earth. They have, as of yet to encounter a truly friendly giant (which may not fit into the TV show time line perfectly). Their crash was a year ago.
Steve jolted awake, meeting with Barry, Betty, and Fitzhugh. Barry was ten (nice continuity with the TV show), his father died while in the US Navy (in THE CRASH, he was a Marine Lt. Colonel). Fitzhugh, also known as Silver Fox (it says here), was accepted by the others from 703, who realized he wasn't an embezzler or a con man (in the TV show, although unclear, he was indeed often referred to as a con man or as having the most experience with locks-UNDERGROUND or a shady past-DOUBLE CROSS and Mark tells the Piper in PAY THE PIPER that he did steal that money). To Barry, Fitzhugh was a Navy hero. The others had stopped trying to find out. They were all partners in their predicament and they liked the man, eventually. Steve encountered a blond Valerie Ames Scott, tripping over her slipper. He thought about how Val had changed--in the land of the giants she learned that what counted was what she did as a person. He wondered if she would revert to her former ways when they returned to Earth. Steve was 26 years old and Mark, on the flight deck, was a few years older. They are waiting for a call from Dan at the outpost. The two lightly debate: Mark believes they could stay buried under snow during the approaching giant winter; Steve wants to move the ship to a new location. Mark thinks he could rig up vents, motors, and fans. Steve wants to avoid dictating--wanting, instead, an agreement on decisions. Dan's call puts an end to their debate--a giant truck has arrived with giant searchers who are using metal detectors! Steve sends Mark out to replace Dan, so Dan can return to help him ready the ship's escape.
FLIGHT OF FEAR CHAPTER ONE
THE SEARCHERS--COMMENT SECTION
A most clever introductory chapter, this also has the best recap of the series premise and ideas. It also began the development of each character by briefly recounting his or her past, then explaining where that character was in terms of a year after their landing. How had the experience changed them? Some answers are here, especially with Valerie but more was to come. Information about Steve's father and his apartments, although brief, was welcome. From the wording, we can figure this story to be a later first season (1968 to 1969) tale, especially as 1969 had the last of the first season airing. Barry is also very young for this story but he was really ten up until THE CREED where he turned eleven. But this book tells us, it has been a year since that crash landing. The feel of the book is as close to a LAND OF THE GIANTS episode as is possible in a spin off in written form with only a few minor discrepancies, easily overlooked or forgotten.
FLIGHT OF FEAR CHAPTER TWO SYNOPSIS
TITLE: TAKE NO CHANCES-runs from page 22 to page 35
Steve alerts all the others who are trying to keep up their sense of humor. Betty began a review of all loose gear, which would have to be stored away. Avoiding Fitzhugh's stalling, tactfully, Steve gets him outside with him to help uncover the canopy of leaves that camouflaged the spaceliner. The ramp from the hatch was improvised from twigs, lashed together with vines (not on the TV show; one the TV series, the used a small, black, metal step ladder). Steps were hacked out from the twigs. On top of the ship, Fitzhugh says, "I don't puff the way I used to. The climate here must agree with me."
"You've been living by using your muscles rather than just your wits," Steve frowned and added quickly, "Sorry, Alex, I didn't think of what I was saying."
"No apology needed," Fitzhugh replied.
From a tree where they had made a bridge, Steve checked as a second truck bounced toward the first. Fitzhugh remarked that Steve always made the group put on a new cover of leaves so the old ones wouldn't stick together after a rain. Steve had moving in his mind for long time now as Fitzhugh realizes now. Dan used a trick of Mark's to hear unintelligible loudness of the giants' conversation (which was spoken in a form of English.) NOTE: The TV show had the giants talk very little and in THE TRAP they talked using a microphone system, yet later on the giants could be understood, loud or soft so this is a bit of a change--however, the show itself changed also. What is the same is that the giants speak some form of English--although, again, on the TV show they weren't going to yet they did in THE CRASH, the very first segment.
Mark joins Dan just as the second truck arrives, nearly crushing them. Dan shoved Mark one way and flung himself another way. A massive tire rolled between them. Dan overcome by gasoline was guided beneath the truck by Mark. Booted feet surrounded the truck--and them. Chipper moved off from a worried Barry, who felt he couldn't retrieve the dog without abandoning his post at watch-duty. In the ship's ladies' lavatory, Val was stowing things when she decided to make faces at herself in a mirror. Betty joins her, hearing Val's talking to herself. They talk about their ragged clothes and appearances. Betty tells Val she has a glow now that she didn't have before. Val jokes that her beauty operator is "Gigi! In the big shop at the end of the universe. The things they can do for and to you are--out of this world." Val asks Betty about when they get home. Betty hasn't thought about it, she's been too busy praying. Betty tells her she would continue to be a stewardess. She was once almost run over by a taxi in Hollywood but it didn't stop her from crossing streets. Betty insists Valerie has changed. The two girls hear a warning from Barry that giants are coming. Agreeing they are scared squirrels the two part, Betty ordering her to go to her seat. Barry tells Steve about Chipper, who Steve considers as part of the passengers and crew. He orders Fitzhugh to clear vines from under the ship with Barry on watch. Alone, Steve began 703's pre-flight checks.
FLIGHT OF FEAR-CHAPTER TWO-TAKE NO CHANCES--COMMENT SECTION
Val did change in appearance and personality but gradually as the person changed due to the experiences of the land and as her trust in the others grew. That glow discussed by Betty about her is there in later episodes. It is hard in such a synopsis and review to give on an appreciation for Rathjen's sense of the group--and of his clever dialogue which is filled with quips, jokes, and an insight into the relationships, here seen clearly with Val and Betty; and Fitzhugh and Steve. It is also interesting to note Burton listing Chipper among the crew and the dog was a vital member to the group on the TV show. They all felt for him although Steve was rather cruel at the beginning of act one to EVERY DOG NEEDS A BOY. Add all of this to Rathjen's sense of impending disaster which pervades these early chapters as well as his crisp action sequences (the arrival of the truck over Dan and Mark) and you come up with a winning mix and a winning novel. The early morning sequences in the forest seem particularly dark and foreboding, with several foreshadowing of later incidents in the book (Betty talks of crossing the street and both women talk of wanting new clothes, Fitzhugh and Steve mention rain). A good first two chapters but the excitement and action, so cleverly building up in these first two, is about to explode in chapter three!
FLIGHT OF FEAR-CHAPTER THREE SYNOPSIS
TITLE: DELAY IN TERROR-running from page 36 to page 52
Steve's call to Dan and Mark puts them in danger--a giant hand brushes past them as they lay down under the truck, an investigating giant may have heard Steve's call. Dan gets a quick message to Steve, then climbs up the wheel alignment assembly to the engine behind the radiator. With Mark's help, Dan hauled up dry weeds to try to start a fire (using spilled gas near the carburetor and applying them to the exhaust manifold) and fanning it. Two giants were ready to mash Chipper, one with his foot, the other with a metal detector. Barry heard Chipper and dashed off, followed by Fitzhugh. A giant heard them and was about to turn and find 703. It was just then that an alert caused all the giants to return to the smoking truck. Dan had quite a time getting back to Mark without getting burned by either the fire or hot auto-parts. He had told Mark not to wait but Mark did. They decide to run toward the ship---right through the rushing mass of giants. Dan told him to, "Watch his step," but he should have said, "Watch the giants' steps!" They were spotted, were quickly dismissed as the giants rushed their comrade who pointed at Dan and Mark--back to the truck. Dan and Mark were also almost mashed by huge boots several times. They made their way around mashed weeds on their usual trail, a rabbit run (which may have been mentioned on the series in THE UNSUSPECTED). Mark had to be rescued from a spiny bush where Dan had lost him accidentally. He told Dan that he came back for him when one of his orders (which Mark didn't obey) was not to come back for him.
Fitzhugh saw the massive head of a giant against the sky (this is described after Dan and Mark's run but occurs first) and the Earth man bellowed into needle like spines. Barry pulled him out, with Chipper found. Barry is proud of Fitzhugh for rescuing them (all the giants left the area--the boy and Fitzhugh unaware it was due to the fire Dan and Mark set). Fitzhugh's hand is hurt. After a few tries, Betty finally gets through Steve's snap orders to inform him that the two of them are the only ones aboard the aircraft. Val took off to help Fitzhugh find Barry and the dog.
The giants put out the truck fire and all of them look toward the area 703 is in, several giants piecing together their stories of sightings. The boss ordered all of them aboard the first truck and the driver to head at the area.
Steve, sick due to his decision about leaving the five, who had become more to him than just passengers and crew, had to decide to save the ship. It must come first. Just as he moved to take off, Chipper came to his feet, followed by Val, helping Fitzhugh with an excited Barry. Val gives Steve a mischievous glance before he ushers them aboard. He also sees Dan and Mark arriving and helps them aboard. Checking all panels, Steve and Dan go over the lights, put the reactors up to full power, extend initial takeoff fins, and fire light thrust burners. Firing jato jets they shoot 703 up past giants, one of whom sweeps at it with a shovel. Another giant makes a flying leap with outstretched hands. A third giant tosses a rock at the ship. Escaping, Dan jokes, "Too wide, ball one." Steve added, "And one strike." 703 eases up into the overcast where a huge snowflake plasters itself over one of the cockpit windows. "Out of the frying pan, into what?" Steve muttered.
FLIGHT OF FEAR-CHAPTER THREE--DELAY IN TERROR-COMMENTS
This chapter begins the retelling of events from different viewpoints with so much going on at one time, it is important that the technique be used. The one flaw was the lack of description of the under truck when Dan climbed to the engine. This chapter also holds the first of many quips and one liners which added levity to the dark situation. The novelty of having 703 in flight is handled to perfection i the novel, beginning with this chapter. The exciting takeoff is imaginatively, if briefly relayed. Each chapter concludes with a cliffhanger of sorts--each original, different from the previous ones, and challenging to the characters and readers alike. One doesn't really know what to expect, especially as the ship is in flight and heading toward and into--who knows what. Yes, Murray Leinster's books had the ship in flight but in his novels (which all have merit), the characters and situation are so different from the TV show, that here, it is almost like reading a script which was never made for the series. They are in THE FOREST from the show--despite the manmade bridge stuff up in the trees--one can easily imagine the forest of the show here but not as much in LEINSTER'S NOVELS. FLIGHT OF FEAR is far superior in its relation to the series and if Spindrift were to leave on the series and move---it would have been very like this, I am sure. On LOST IN SPACE, Irwin Allen and company made the Robinsons leave two planets just before their destruction--BLAST OFF INTO SPACE and CONDEMNED OF SPACE. I am sure a FLIGHT OF FEAR type blast off would have happened sooner or later in a third or fourth season, if the series had continued.
FLIGHT OF FEAR-CHAPTER FOUR SYNOPSIS
TITLE: FORCED LANDING-running from page 53 to page 64
As 703 flew vertically above the snowstorm, there were no problems. All were snug aboard. Leveling off, Steve opened all heat covers from the windows. Mark joined the two pilots in the flight deck. The two agree to Mark's plan to contact giants who may be friendly using his adjusted modulated radio. Steve zigzags 703 in order to avoid a contact's pinpointing of the ship. Betty comes in, "If you're trying to settle our breakfasts, we haven't had any, remember?" Steve orders them all to refasten their seat belts and harnesses. Steve spurts 703 away from a contact which Dan picked up on the radar. The contact questioned them about what type of craft they are. The three discuss the giants' open antagonism while the giant pilot wants to guide the ship in. The men figure lost space capsules of the Americans, Russians, Chinese, French, and British could have landed on this planet accidentally, unleashing what they contained: H-bombs, bacteria, viruses, and other things which could have been taken for an attack. The giants fire a missile at the ship, Steve plummets 703 downward, nose first. Then he used retro rockets and extended fins to slow her. Using jato and afterburners, Steve shoots 703 away at a right angle to its former downward course. The missile, unable to follow, explodes. Mark checks on the others and returns with these comments: "Betty wants hoisting out of her hip sockets, Valerie says she can do with a face lift, and the Commander's name is just Hugh now; he's lost all his bubbling Fitz," and adds Chipper is on the deck like a rug and Barry is taking it like a good soldier. 703 flies below radar tracking. Mark picks up music on the radio and an announcement by the giants' news. It tells them, "All agencies, federal, provincial, state, and municipal are cooperating. Both houses of the federal legislature are pushing an emergency statue," making it a felony to help the "dangerous" little people. Dan discovers damage that the explosion did to the hydraulic system. They can't retract or extend finds hydraulically or manually---and only just had time to balance the port fins with the starboard fins. Mark figures the motors are burned and the gears stripped. Steve worries about a lack of power in the cells, which may force them down prematurely.
FLIGHT OF FEAR CHAPTER FOUR--FORCED LANDING--COMMENT SECTION
The lost space capsule rationale behind the antagonism is a brilliant one, one of many very engaging sub plots. Although there were some friendly giants in the show's first year--none seemed to help the Earth people in repairing the spaceship and finding tools and food. Later, Andre in NIGHTMARE was possibly the only giant to do this aside from the way the little people used O'Reilly in OUR MAN O'REILLY. Still, year one did have some friendly giants--the Bera parents, Dell's parents, the daughter camper in THE BOUNTY HUNTER, Senator Obeck in SABOTAGE, the hobo in FRAMED, and a few others who helped the group out of sticky problems, if not helping them repair the spaceship. The giants in FLIGHT OF FEAR seem to have a democratic type government and as in the show, blame the little ones for bad happenings. By the chapter's end, the three men realize they are still on their own (as Steve mentioned in the unaired pilot of THE CRASH--"there's no one here who'll help us"). This chapter vaguely reminds one of TARGET: EARTH with Mark wanting to contact giants who he may think are friendly (in TARGET: EARTH though, one was friendly) but in this chapter. This was an exciting, totally airborne episode, despite title of FORCED LANDING no landing actually takes place in this chapter. I for one, was not complaining---an airborne story is much needed in LAND OF THE GIANTS. The missile action reminded one of the many missile sequences in LOST IN SPACE (notably THE GHOST PLANET, FORBIDDEN WORLD, THE FLAMING PLANET, THE PROMISED PLANET, and JUNKYARD IN SPACE).
FLIGHT OF FEAR--CHAPTER FIVE-SYNOPSIS
TITLE: SURVIVAL SPOT--runs from page 65 to page 81
703 cruised at a slow speed southward, its pilot searching for a good spot to land. Passing fields and a mountain range, they avoid an air traffic pattern area, dairy and vegetable farms, and spurts of suburbia (including housing developments, gold courses, and markets). While the three men joke about accommodations and luxury (or lack of), Steve flies 703 toward a skyscraper city (notably a much more complex and large city than the one in the TV show near their forest). In his thoughts, Burton noted how Wilson has lost his irritable mood of opposition (to both Dan and Steve) and felt it was healthy to maintain their sense of humor. They passed parks and a zoo, finally spotting a large central park. They noticed it was unusually crowded--a weekend or holiday time--something Steve felt could tell them what areas would be least populated. He had planned to pick a landing spot, then return with the craft after dark. But 703 had to land then and there. Steve had to pilot 703 above traffic to get behind a parapet between the park and the street (all within the northeast corner of the park). To avoid a tree, Steve hit the retro rockets. Below, on a park bench, a giant man in his late 20s and a younger blond woman hear this and briefly spot the spaceliner flying downward. The ship flies through ferns, hits the ground too hard, and skids into some empty cans---garbage litterbugs have tossed over the parapet. Steve and Dan, after their and Mark's worry over more damage, make a quick survey of the area, covering 703's passage and use a cracker carton to get in and out of the door. Steve has everyone except Mark come out to conceal the ship. As Dan and Steve tout newspaper, they note a World Series item. Dan asked, "Who do you think will win the pennant?"
"The giants," Steve answered. Barry, who plays a game of sock with Chipper, pulling it from the dog so he can tug it back from his hand, helps. It was Fitzhugh's sock. Fitzhugh, away from 703, spots four giants at the park bench, including the man and woman who saw 703 fly overhead. They seemed, by their motions, to be discussing 703's passing over. This talk ends with all four giants looking directly at Fitzhugh--or so he thought. Trying to get away, the little man blunders into a candy wrapper--and falls--stuck and helpless.
Before the two male giants join the couple on the park bench, the young man, a struggling young and beginning doctor named Bart Enderle and his fiance Jennifer (the blond), discuss his problems. He is reluctant to tell her about a new patient who may spell financial success or ruin for him. The two men arrive and discuss a UFO, spreading fear and propaganda about the UFOs and "dangerous" little people. The men were arguing about seeing a UFO. The giants stare toward the area they saw it fly toward (and this is when Fitzhugh falls into the wrapper). Bart is the only one among them to realize it may not be an invasion but a series of accidents caused by lost space capsules. What if Giant space capsules struck smaller planets? He feels mass hysteria caused all the untruths and tells the men the UFO was just a red bird. The men leave. In the meantime, a mongrel dog is scouting for food.
FLIGHT OF FEAR-CHAPTER FIVE---SURVIVAL SPOT--COMMENT SECTION
This fine chapter keeps an air of light hearted fun as the trio of men try to keep up their sense of humor while scouting for a landing spot. The crash landing is vividly detailed and exciting, leading into the depiction of this new environment. The humor keeps coming as the group camouflage the spaceship--and it is all in line with the personalities the characters possess on television. It was a nice way to present the giants, first from Steve and Dan's overhead point of view from the flying spaceship's flight deck in mid air; then from Fitzhugh's point of view within the park-parapet area. Shortly after this, Bart and Jennifer are more formally introduced through snatches of dialogue which drops clues and hints that foreshadow what is to come. Bart briefly mentions the mobster's plan (his patient) and lies to cover the passage of 703 overhead when the two men asked if he could prove it was a spaceship. Bart also tells us he feels the little people may not be invaders. While Bart seems somewhat predictable here--the mystery of his problem remains and leaves one wondering what he would if he encountered the humans. Clearly, he would have an open mind and be friendly. Jen, on the other hand, may not be as friendly toward them; yet she did seem loyal to Bart as witnessed when she did not tell the two men that Bart knew it was a bird that flew by. Another terrific example of foreshadowing is the short two sentences allowing for the mongrel dog--which only at Chapter Five's end---becomes noticeable as a future problem for Steve's group. This chapter had a great example of the back tracking and inter-cross cutting of events when Fitzhugh believes the giants are staring at him on page 76, then the events before that are discussed from the giants' reference point---and on page 78, all the giants stare toward the area. That is when Fitzhugh falls into the candy wrapper. The novel does this in a most interesting fashion while we wait to find out what else is going on from another's point of view during any given action. Some media shows and books get dull when the heroes aren't in there doing what they do (for example, I almost always found DOCTOR WHO dull when the Doctor and his companions were off screen; another example would be in Abbott and Costello movies--when the two comedians were off screen and film time was given to love subplots and out dated songs--it was frustrating--one likes to see the characters doing their stuff). FLIGHT OF FEAR, I must admit when I first read it (when I was in 5th or 6th grade I think and during one of the most fun and imaginative summers), made me want to skip the Bart stuff. But upon reading what happened later, I was sorry I did that. I subsequently reread it--many, many times. The giants alone will always seem a bit dull but stories need to build and this one did so, particularly in this chapter.