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July 2004
 
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The Gods Hate Kansas, by Joseph Millard (1941)

THERE ARE those books whose titles are, in many ways, so spectacular that one fears they might overshadow the books themselves. There is Jack Butler's Jujitsu for Christ, for example, or Dwarf Rapes Nun, Flees in UFO by Arnold Sawislak.

And there's Joseph Millard's The Gods Hate Kansas. Right from the start you know you're in for something…different. First of all, the title begs the question: Do the gods, in fact, hate Kansas, and if so, why? Well, don't hold your breath waiting for the answers. All we know is how the gods show their displeasure—by bombarding Kansas with more meteors per square mile than any other state.

Nine of them hit the Earth at the beginning of the story, the investigating scientists are zombiefied, and work begins on a spaceship. There's a beautiful (zombiefied) woman, loved by a (nonzombiefied) scientist, who, if not mad, is certainly awfully cranky by the end of the book, and there are aliens. What more could you want?

Well, how about a movie? It was filmed in 1967 as They Came from Beyond Space, but don't look for any better answers there. By comparison, the book is Great Literature.

Originally published in 1941 in Startling Stories, it did manage to predate other, better known aliens-take-over-our-minds yarns, but being first doesn't always mean being best. Millard himself went on to gain note as the writer of The Cheyenne Wars and other western non-fiction, none of which are as intriguingly betitled as this, his only sf novel.

—Bud Webster

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