Prince of Peril – Otis Adelbert Kline (1930)
Following hot on the heels of Grandon, who was sent off to Venus in ‘Planet of Peril‘, we find Harry Thorne (not in fact Harry Thorne at all but a Martian) who is transported to ancient Venus by the secret method of Professor Morgan. Harry arrives in the body of the Prince of Olba and is very soon brought up speed with the help of Vern Vangal (another interplanetary traveller). Soon however the prince is in trouble, since an ambitious noble is killing off the Royals in a bid to seize the throne.
Narrowly escaping assassination the prince finds himself in a forest where he intercedes in an argument between an attractive woman and a lisping fop. As is unsurprising, she turns out to be a princess. She is engaged to the idiot and while the men are arguing the Princess is kidnapped. It is the same old entertaining tosh. Harry has to deal with giant reptiles, talking man-eating apes and the immortals of a hidden valley who have learned to transfer their consciousness to machines. Again one gets the impression that Kline wrote randomly, or serially at least… possibly having a goal in sight, but not quite sure how he was going to get there.
At one point Harry and the Princess defeat a reptile which appears to be mostly mouth and a couple of legs. They take over its cave, only to find an egg in there. The egg hatches and the princess feeds the tiny beast, who then follows them. ‘Ah.’ one thinks. ‘the pet is going to prove useful at some point.’ In fact, no. The pair bump into some of the machine-men, get into a cable-car and then just whizz off, leaving the poor beast abandoned on top of a cliff.
The denouement plot structure is almost identical to the last volume. Usurper takes over throne and threatens to marry hero’s girlfriend. Hero has to do something. All ends well.
One can’t really fault Kline for the laziness of his delivery. One imagines that there were far worse things coming out of the publishing houses of the day. Although Kline repeats plot devices in various ways he is at least imaginative. The concept of consciousness transference into a mechanical device, if not original, is certainly well thought through.
In the 21st century it is now a standard theme, particularly from writers such as Richard Morgan and Peter F Hamilton who have widely explored the idea of immortality via digital ‘backup’s of one’s consciousness and memories. It’s interesting to see the idea mooted in 1930.