The Castaways of Eros

My look at the fiction of Théo Varlet concludes.

Review: The Castaways of Eros, Théo Varlet, trans. Brian Stableford, 1943, 2013. 

Cover by Jean-Felix Lyon

In the 1936 second edition of The Xenobiotic Invasion, Varlet mentioned a sequel to that novel. However, that sequel, titled Aurore Lescure, pilote d’astronef, wouldn’t be published until 1943, five years after Varlet’s death.

In his “Introduction”, Brian Stableford speculates Varlet may have hoped this novel would be picked up in translation in America. Varlet was almost alone among roman scientifique authors of the time in his interest in advances in rocketry. While Varlet’s style probably wouldn’t have been amenable to an American pulp audience, if he had managed to place it in that market before he died, it might have been fondly remembered as the first pulp story to feature sentient dinosaur-like creatures. Instead, that distinction goes to Norman L. Knight’s “Saurian Valedictory”.

This novel is Varlet’s least ambiguous and most explicit attack on modernity, specifically industrial civilization.

It’s two years after the events of The Xenobiotic Invasion. The great powers of the world, still fearing infection from more alien fungi, are still maintaining a moratorium on rocket flights exiting the atmosphere.

But what are they doing behind the scenes? Well, young reporter Oscar Frémiet has discovered, working undercover, that the German military is very interested in rocketry and has been doing secret launches. (Varlet even mentions Hermann Oberth, one of the future inventors of the V-2.) He plays a minor, but important, role in the preceding novel and is narrator Gaston-Adolphe Delvart’s nephew.

Oscar, not so coincidentally, shows up at his parents’ house to see Delvart and his wife, Aurore Lescure. He’s trying to sniff out why Aurore Lescure is meeting with the famous Madame Simodzuki. She’s a billionaire and a very famous philanthropist who inherited her dead husband’s industrial fortune.

Gaston, Oscar’s father, argues with the narrator and Oscar that each nation developing rocket technology will, inevitably, lead to an arms race as it did before World War One. Delvart argues that many nations possessing rocket powered weapons could achieve peace through deterrence.

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