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The Fetter Mission
M.L. Roland
PublishAmerica, 185 pages

The Fetter Mission
M.L. Roland
Martha. L. Roland (née Elam; 1952- ) lives in Chicago, Illinois with her husband and dog. She is a fan of science-fiction and mystery in both books or movies. She attended Oakton Community College where she pursued studies in Business and Computer Science. Her hobbies include writing, model trains, photography, drawing and painting still life and playing a good and fast game of chess. At the age of twenty, Martha married. She does not have any children but she and her husband raised dogs all of their married life together. This year (2004) they will celebrate thirty-two years of married bliss.

She began writing at the age of ten. Her first attempt was a short story about men from mars complete with head antennas, right down to the greenish skin. In the years that followed, she continued her writing on various subjects, spy novels and period romance, but her favorite subject has always been science fiction.

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A review by Georges T. Dodds

Rick and Bill of the Jerdain military are amongst those attacking Bahar, the lair of Thomas Fetter and son Curtis, a pair of evil, ruthless immortals, masters of mind control as well a number of other advanced technologies, and -- naturally -- bent upon ruling the universe. Sure, this sort of thing has been done a thousand times by the likes of Ray Cummings, Edmond Hamilton, and John W, Campbell, Jr. -- but perhaps never quite so poorly. Rather than proceed any further with the plot, which ends in the defeat of the bad guys (and that's no spoiler), let me enumerate the most grating problems this book presents -- and to keep things short I'll limit myself to the first half of the book.

The supervillains are bunglers: The Fetters are immortal, capable of mind reading and mind control (if at times of inexplicably variable effectiveness), and at least one is capable of morphing a man into a woman capable of bearing offspring, yet when one of them attempts to rape the new-made woman he is defeated by a knee to the groin. Numerous similar inconsistencies exist between vast powers and practical incompetence.
The supervillains are bungled: The Fetters are so thinly portrayed that they present no character traits beyond the occasional outburst of sadistic violence. Their capacity to think, to conspire, to plan, to come to decisions, all this is obscure.
The serendipitous heroes: Rick and Bill are beaten physically and mentally by the Fetters, then killed. But have no fear, there's a prophecy! there's a sign on their skin! there's a mysterious stranger from the mystic mountains! there's resurrection and the conferring of immortality by way of a skinbag full of water -- damn that's convenient!
The serendipitous transport: Rick and Bill wander on the deserted planet, and just happen to come across Jonathan and Simon, space-criminals, and the space ship which will conveniently allow them to get home to Jerdain and warn people.
The serendipitous life-mate: Rick really likes and respects Bill, enjoys his company, so golly! ain't it great that Thomas Fetter has transformed Bill into a bona-fide big-bosomed blonde bombshell, begging Rick to make a woman of her, so Thomas won't.
The paper-thin film-lot backgrounds: Forget any description of the villains lair, of a planet's landscape, of pretty much anything.
Mother of the Fetter dynasty: Of all the billions of inhabitants of the universe -- some presumably fertile and female -- who does Thomas Fetter chose as the mother of the chosen race he is to father? Bill the male Jerdainain soldier, who requires a bit of a make-over. Why him? Why not change himself into a woman and be inseminated by Bill? These are questions far too complex to warrant the least explanation.
Mommy must be a virgin: Perhaps Bill had seen Andy Warhol's Dracula, where the virginal daughter is saved from Udo Keir's attentions by being deflowered by the lusty houseboy. He seems to think that if Rick is the first, then Thomas will lose interest -- if Bill is to simply be a Fetter breeding ground, priority of coupling seems irrelevant.
Anachronisms are us: Interstellar criminals and immortals' offspring in a time where interstellar travel is commonplace, listening to rock music; a 6 character text-based computer password; gold as an economic standard... etc...
Dangling participles? how about dangling plot threads?: Plot threads and characters seem to appear and disappear according to their usefulness in moving the story through a plotting bottleneck. With Rick and Bill back home, courtesy of Jonathan and Simon's ship, Jonathan rockets away in his ship, leaving Simon to eventually be recycled as a Fetter-zombie, their stories, however minor, left dangling. Some scenes, like that in Jonathan's favourite sleazy space-bar seem simply filler or red-herrings.

The Fetter Mission notwithstanding, space-opera isn't inherently as worthless a literary form as one might be led to think, even in its most primitive mind-candy incarnations. Old-fashioned space-opera, with not too much attention to scientific plausibility, but awash with swashbuckling heroes, nefarious villains and voluptuous princesses -- have laser-cannon, will travel -- everything that The Fetter Mission is not. If you're hankering for cheesy space-opera (and have gotten over Star Wars), then pick up the old Ace edition of Edmond Hamilton's Crashing Suns, which draws from his Interstellar Patrol tales (1928-1930). I particularly enjoyed the heroes walking about the surface of a collapsed, radioactive sun, ten times the size of Earth's, in their day clothes -- still, for all its 75-odd years of patina and now clichéd plots and characters, it remains vastly superior to M.L. Roland's The Fetter Mission.

Copyright © 2005 Georges T. Dodds

Georges Dodds is a research scientist in vegetable crop physiology, who for close to 25 years has read and collected close to 2000 titles of predominantly pre-1950 science-fiction and fantasy, both in English and French. He writes columns on early imaginative literature for WARP, the newsletter/fanzine of the Montreal Science Fiction and Fantasy Association and maintains a site reflecting his tastes in imaginative literature.

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