Sunday, February 20, 2022

Paul Ernst’s Rulers of the Future

Paul Ernst’s novel Rulers of the Future was serialised in Weird Tales in January, February and March 1935.

Paul Ernst (1899-1985) was an American pulp writer about whom I know nothing.

Rulers of the Future takes place in 1990. Professor Ticknor and a wealthy adventurer named Brock are being interviewed by a newspaper reporter named Woodward (who narrates the tale). Ticknor and Brock are about to make the first voyage to Alpha Centauri. Ticknow has constructed a huge gun that will shoot a spacecraft at the speed of light. The spacecraft will essentially ride the beam of light. The gun is therefore a kind of incredibly powerful searchlight, powered by radium.

Ticknor’s scientific enemies are trying to stop his mission and they’re using the Humanitarian League as their weapon. The Humanitarian League does not believe that people should be allowed to risk their own lives.

The mission has to be launched in a hurry, Woodward decides to tag along, and because the Professor did not have time to complete his calculations properly something goes horribly wrong. The three space voyagers find themselves back on Earth, but two hundred million years in the future. It’s lucky that Professor Ticknor remembered to pack a time machine on his suitcase. He was intending to use it to photograph the birth of a star a billion years in the past. Now it’s their only chance to get back to Earth in 1990 but the Professor will need a fully equipped laboratory and such things might not exist in the world of the future.

In fact life seems to be pretty primitive. They discover a friendly tribe but they’re more or less existing at the hunter-gatherer level, although actually it’s more fishing and gathering. The tribe does however contain some cute women, one of whom (named Gayta) takes a shine to Woodward. You have to have a romance sub-plot in a story like this.

At first it seems like a bucolic paradise but the villagers are terrified of something. There are other beings on this Earth of the future. Our adventurers from 1990 don’t yet know what those other beings are, whether they’re monsters or aliens or hostile tribesmen. The local villagers are very vague on the subject. Whoever or whatever these beings are they have enslaved Gayta’s people. They also apparently practise human sacrifice. The key to their power is their god but nobody knows anything about this god.

Ticknor and his companions are horrified when they learn the truth. The slavers are giant lizard-men. Somehow these savage slavers will have to be defeated but there are a few other problems - our adventurers only have one gun between them and it only has one bullet. Also their spacecraft has been wrecked by the lizard-men. Their problems get worse when the lizard-men pick their next victim for a human sacrifice.

And there are even more problems, in the form of a variety of monsters all of which have a taste for human flesh.

This tale is very pulpy indeed. It’s essentially a kind of jungle adventure tale with science fiction trappings. There’s lots of action, lots of narrow escapes and plenty of monstrousness. It’s not exactly subtle stuff.

This novel is interesting for the way it’s influenced by Einstein’s theories, but in a totally garbled way. Scientifically it’s mostly arrant nonsense but Ernst at least has a few big ideas, even if they’re silly ideas.

Rulers of the Future is kind of fun in a very undemanding way.

Rulers of the Future is paired with Lester Del Rey’s Pursuit in a two-novel paperback from Armchair Fiction. Pursuit is good enough to justify the purchase price and since you’re going to be getting Ernst’s novel as well it’s worth giving Rulers of the Future a read as long as you set your expectations fairly low.

I’ve also reviewed Paul Ernst’s The Complete Tales of Dr Satan (also very very pulpy).

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