Invaders From Rigel
Fletcher Pratt

Cover I picked up this book when cruising through a second hand book shop. I was bored and looking for something different. This book is definitely different, yet typical of it's era. The title is tacky. The cover is tacky. Green men wearing glass fishbowl space suit helmets and carrying ray guns. The epitome of the early pulp fiction days of SF.

The book starts with the main character, Murray Lee, waking up in the morning to find he has been turned into a "metal machine". It's interesting to note, the term 'robot' does not appear anywhere in the book, yet this is what everyone has become.

Having dressed, Murray sets off to try and find out what has happened. Not everyone has been turned into 'machine men'. The greatest bulk of the population have become solid metal statues. Murray locates a number of other people who have been turned into machines and they begin exploring their new situation.

Murray and his friends have a number of difficulties to over come. There is a new species of giant mechanical bird that seems intent on killing all the mechanical people. The birds spend a great deal of time flying around and trying to drop boulders on everyone. They succeed in squashing a number of people into tin plates.

The invaders of the title don't appear in person until very late in the book. I think the person who designed the cover never actually read the book. The invaders are certainly not described as green men with short back and sides haircuts.

Towards the end of the book Murray and friends meet some people from Australia who have survived the invasion. Unlike their American counterparts the Australians haven't been turned into machine people, they've been turned blue. This comes as quite a surprise to both parties when they meet. Each had thought the same fate had befallen everyone. The Americans thought everyone had been turned into machines and the Australians thought everyone had been turned blue.

They all join forces to fight the invaders and it doesn't take a genius to work out who wins.

The overall plot of this book is not surprising, which is why I haven't worried about giving it away. This doesn't mean that it is a predictable book. The ending is, but there are a lot of interesting and amusing incidents along the way. It's an old book and it's ideas are silly by today's standards of SF, but it's these silly ideas that make the book fun.

For example one of the characters had a drink of water and now their teeth and insides are stating to rust. Their problem is solved by another character who gives them oil to drink so their insides stay greased and won't rust. Then there is the descriptions of the people and their mechanical state. Extremely funny. Not a transistor or electronic component in sight. They truly are mechanical people.

The writing is fairly bad. The characters are almost indistinguishable from one another and their dialogue is severely overdone. They're more like caricatures than characters. It would certainly never get published today.

Despite this the book is readable. It's a good reflection of the time in which it was written. You couldn't read hundreds of these sorts of books, but one every now and then is good for a laugh.