“The Mind Master”

It’s time for this week’s Deep Ones’ reading.

This week’s selection is not really, to my mind and emotions (and isn’t emotion a crucial element here?), weird.

However, when the nominations are put up, I’ll vote for anything I haven’t read before, and I voted for this one.

Review: “The Mind Master”, Arthur J. Burks, 1932.Mind Master

Lee Bentley is a pretty resilient guy.

A bit over two months ago, in the African jungles, he got mixed up with Caleb Barter, one bad, mad genius obsessed with birthing a better world. And he knows just how to do it: smart guys’ brains in ape bodies.

Bentley’s a smart guy, so Barter put his brain into a great ape.

Bentley’s no sissy. He’s a pulp hero, so he doesn’t have PTSD or nightmares. He’s not boozing it up or sobbing in his apartment after his experiences.

After a couple of months of recuperation in England, he returns to his native Manhattan with Ellen Estabrook, his fiancé.

(The whole brain-in-an-ape story was told in Burks’ “Manape the Mighty” which I haven’t read, but the reader gets up to speed in the first chapter.)

And, wouldn’t you know it, as soon as Lee gets back, the newspapers are talking up about some genius calling himself “Mind Master”. He’s gonna kill the executive of an insurance company and then, after ten hours of warning, steal the brains of twenty other named men. Lee’s instantly reminded of Barter who he thought was probably killed by the “vengeful apes” he kept. But he never saw the body.

What follows is tale of superscience, car chases, berserk apes, mind control, hypnosis, miscegenation (Barter decides his menacing Japanese assistant – superbly skilled at building tiny mechanisms and unarmed combat, of course – should make superior babies with Ella), and a very large body count. People get run over by cars, plummet fatally, and are disintegrated. (I think somebody got shot too, but I didn’t note the specific metrics of mayhem.)

And, speaking of superscience, Barter’s such a good surgeon that he not only can do assembly line transplants of man brains to ape skulls, but he doesn’t even have to hook them up to the spinal cord to make the whole thing work. Or, at least, Burks never mentions it.

Along the way, Bentley assists Thomas Tyler:

He certainly didn’t look the conventional detective, but Bentley knew instantly that he wasn’t the conventional detective.

Tyler works on “the unusual cases”.

And, every step away of the way, Barter is ahead of them. He has kind of a proto-speech synthesizer to lure people to meetings to abduct them. He has advanced surveillance of Tyler and Lee.

Lee even comes up with a scheme to infiltrate Barter’s setup – disguised as a new kind of ape. That doesn’t work either.

The whole thing is told with melodramatic verve. Bentley has the something of the vibe of a pulp hero like Doc Savage or the Shadow though without supernormal abilities or training or some moral crusade.

The thing is Bentley doesn’t really save any of Barter’s targets except himself and Ellen. Oh, Barter and Machi get disintegrated along with the hideout, “Hell’s Laboratory”. But, in the final scene, Lee doesn’t actually stop Barter from cutting open all those brain pans and lifting the brains out. Since Barter disintegrates their human bodies, there’s no returning to human life for his victims like Lee did. (In case you’re wondering, why, yes, Lee does have a nice and neat scar across his skull.) One of Barter’s manapes makes the decision for the rest and zaps them to ashes before turning the disintegrator ray on himself.

The weirdest bit of the story is Barter’s vision of his manapes striding into their offices to run the world all the while surrounded by normies. (No, Barter doesn’t really say how they are to run the world. By grunts and gesticulations? I guess they’ll be writing a lot of notes.)


More reviews of fantastic fiction are indexed by title and author/editor.

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