The Gods Hate Kansas

The Gods Hate Kansas by Joseph Millard
Monarch Books, 1964
Price I paid: this is my third Interlibrary Loan book in a row

It began with the landing of nine meteors in Kansas. Then, suddenly, it exploded into a massive catastrophe.

First, the meteorite investigating team were turned into automatons, ruled by an unknown, alien intelligence. They barricaded themselves from the world and began building a rocket project, aimed at traversing the stars.

Then, the Crimson Plague struck, sweeping over Earth’s population, destroying human capacities and defying scientific probing.

Only a few escaped the invasion from outer space, among them astrophysicist Curt Temple, whose girl friend, Lee Mason, was enslaved, her personality changed.

Curt knew he had to pit his slim knowledge against the most perfect intelligence in the cosmos to save the world—and the woman he loved.

I have two sets of thank yous to send out before I begin this review. The first is to Erika, who brought this book to my attention in the first place, and the second is to the University of Georgia library system, who lent it to me. Some hands of applause, please.

Another hand of applause for Jack Thurston, the artist behind this incredible cover art. Even though it turns out that this cover art doesn’t have much at all to do with the contents of the book, it’s still amazing. I wasn’t aware of Thurston until I just googled him, and here’s a sampling of his other work. It’s fairly standard pulp art, and I like it a lot. One book I see listed is The Spitfires and I think I might have to look that one up because it sounds incredible. He’s probably best known for his movie posters, I would guess. The Flight of the Phoenix and One Million Years B.C. are both iconic.

The back cover synopsis of this novel is typical in its inaccuracies so I won’t harp on it too much. Mainly I want to point out that yes, there is a rocket project, but no, it does not “traverse the stars.” It goes as far as the Moon. It does turn out that the aliens are from “the stars,” and I guess they want to get back somehow, but that all comes later. After-the-book-is-over later, in fact.

What I want to bring to your attention is the fact that the synopsis uses the phrase “girl friend.” Something about seeing that phrase as two separate words sure does make me think of the late 50s/early 60s. It’s just one of those tiny little language things, and I love it so much. The same is true of “boy friend,” of course. It’s the 20th century equivalent of “Maffachuffets.”

I wonder when that began to change? We were definitely spelling it “boyfriend/girlfriend” in the 90s when I was in school. I didn’t start seeing “bf/gf” until the mid-aughts, I guess, but I’m always behind the times on everything like that.

Anyway, thanks for coming to Thomas’s Linguistics Corner. Stay tuned for your regularly-scheduled book review, after a word from our sponsor.



The Gods Hate Kansas turned out to be a pretty good book. I don’t know much at all about our author. This is his only listed science fiction novel, although it appears he had some short stories in the genre also. There was a Joseph Millard who was a Republican senator (Nebraska) from 1901 to 1907. Whoever wrote his Wikipedia page included this bit:

There was also a Joseph Millard who wrote science fiction novels, but there is no relation between the two men.[citation needed]

Because there’s no citation, I’m going to choose to believe that the assertion is false!

Anyway I think the author also wrote some Westerns.

I’m dancing around here, avoiding getting around to the book itself. I don’t know why I’m doing that. The book was fine. I’m gonna start talking about it for real now.

It kicks off by introducing us to a dirt farmer family, the Solles, in Kansas. Right off the bat we learn that the book’s title is true, because there’s no rain and the bank’s gonna take the farm.

(Actually the reason the book is named what it is comes later.)

Instead of rain, something else falls from the sky. It starts out as eleven meteors in a crisp flying-V formation, but two of them explode on entry. The remaining nine land on the Solle Farm, and then we cut to Science People.

Our main guy in this book is Curtis Temple, Professor of Astrophysics and Meteoritics at Culwain University. He is a typical pulp hero of this sort. In the movie, he was played by this guy:

Robert Hutton

Robert Hutton, the Man Who Wasn’t Jimmy Stewart (

The movie I’m talking about is They Came from Beyond Space (1967), which was based on this book. It is, apparently, terrible.

Robert Hutton wearing goofy goggles
This picture will eventually make sense. (

Temple is told about the meteors that landed in Kansas. This is the big one, what he’s been waiting for. It’s the most important thing that could ever possibly happen to him, career-wise. He gets his team together, up to and including his department assistant and fiancée, Lee Mason.

Mason is described as “a respected scientist in her own right” who “knew almost as much about his specialty as he did.” On the surface that seems pretty nice. It’s good to have a female character who is competent. I even thought, for a little while, that she avoided being a stock woman-in-distress figure. I was wrong about that, but I entertained the idea for a moment, which is more than usual.

There is an occasional whiff of “she’s a competent woman outside of the kitchen and therefore exceptional,” but that might be unavoidable given the time period. That doesn’t make it okay, so make sure you’re not doing it now.

What stuck with me is that the name “Lee Mason” sounds masculine and I got confused on more than one occasion. Also, she’s referred to by her last name a lot, just like the men are, which didn’t help matters. This is a poor reflection on me more than anything.

Temple is one step away from leaving when the president of the university tells him he’s not allowed to go. The rest of his team can, and they can send him all the information he needs, but Temple was in an accident recently and needs time to recover. The university can’t risk him coming to harm.

The accident led to him getting a silver plate put in his head to hold his skull together. I think we can all guess that this will somehow be IMPORTANT.

Temple sulks for a bit but then jumps into the task of reviewing all the data sent back by his team. And then the data stops coming and he goes to figure out why.

We, the readers, aren’t completely out of the loop. We’re there when the science team cracks open the shell on one of these meteors and are all mind controlled by a mysterious invisible force.

And when Temple goes to investigate, it turns out the mysterious invisible force won’t work on him because of the silver plate in his head. Temple doesn’t figure that out for a little while, though.

When he arrives in Kansas, he finds that the farm where the meteorites hit has been turned into a fortified bunker. He’s not able to get in. He meets an FBI agent who was played in the movie by Maurice Good, but in my head was definitely Kyle MacLachlan because he is all FBI agents to me forever. The two swap some data before the agent is overcome by what is later referred to as the Crimson Plague. Basically all his blood vessels explode and it’s pretty gross.

This plague starts hitting all over the place and the world descends into a panic. Meanwhile, Temple is trying to figure out if it has any connection to this bunker and whatever’s going up inside of it. He gets in and finds out that his girl friend is heading up this whole thing! Whaaaaat

I can’t remember a lot of the details from this book. A lot happened very quickly, it felt like. Somewhere, though, Temple figures out that there are some kind of aliens taking over the minds of people and forcing them to do stuff. The aliens are building a space ship that can go to the moon very quickly.

One thing about this book that I liked is that nobody came across as stupid. For instance, when the alien inhabiting Lee Mason’s body explains that all of this is benevolent, that the aliens knew about the Crimson Plague and are helping take the corpses of the dead to the Moon where they can’t hurt anybody, Temple calls BS and lists reasons why. Later, he figures that playing along will help him get out, so he hollers like “Hey, aliens (heyliens), I thought about it and I totally think you’re telling the truth now” and the aliens go “We’re not friggin stupid, a-hole.”

This reminds me that there was very little swearing in this book, to the point where I was a tiny bit shocked when one character called another a son of a bitch. To be more accurate, a very drunk character called another a “shun of a bish,” but still.

With some ingenuity, Temple breaks free and captures Lee Mason—

I just realized that the reason her name seems so masculine is because it reminds me of Lee Marvin

—and takes her (and alien ridealong) to his friend and fellow scientist, Farge. Farge is played in the movie by Zia Mohyeddin, who was also in freakin’ Lawrence of Arabia, so that’s wild. He was also in Danger Man with the woman who played Lee Mason, Jennifer Jayne. I don’t know if they were in any of the same episodes, though.

Together, Temple and Farge do a lot of science and figure out what’s going on. The aliens are invisible but they figure out some special glasses that fix that. Here’s where they figure out that the aliens can’t penetrate silver. Also, there’s some hooey about how the aliens are Pure Thought Energy and the book gets pretty deep into what that is supposed to mean. Most importantly, Temple was able to confiscate an alien energy weapon, and with Farge is able to turn it into a weapon that kills the aliens but leaves humans relatively unharmed. They test it on Lee Mason and free her from the alien menace, whereupon she stops being the MacGuffin and is able to contribute to the rest of the story.

The trio storms the alien compound and ends up on one of the alien rocket ships to the Moon. Once on the Moon, they learn all of the terrible truth about everything, and it turns out to be a pretty okay twist.

The aliens are the Xacrns. Despite all appearances, they’re not trying to take over the Earth. In fact, they’re not even all that evil! They’re just trying to survive and get back home. They also don’t have emotions.

The book has some kooky ideas about evolution and hammers home this idea that it’s always “upward,” whatever that means. It turns out that the Xacrns are “super-evolved” beyond bodies and emotions, but because they’ve reached the “pinnacle” of evolution, that somehow means that they’ll have to die soon? I dunno. It’s both nonsensical and cliché.

The Crimson Plague doesn’t kill people, it just renders them in a state where the Xacrns can take them to the Moon and use them to build a way back to their homeworld. The Xacrn’s usual client species, the Vard, are getting old and dying, which is why they need humans.

So Curt Temple tells the Xacrns the most shocking thing of all: They Could Have Just Asked.

There’s this passage I’m going to quote that is so pure and wonderful and cornball that I have to quote it in full:

We cry at sad pictures and lost kittens and send CARE packages to the underprivileged in lands we’ve never even seen. You can’t understand that but you’re going to have to in order to save yourselves. We call it the human spirit and it’s the reason you could conquer the Earth but never conquer human beings. It’s the tool that can rescue your race.

Page 123

Yeah so it turns out that emotions are the thing that saves the day, and that to save themselves, the Xacrns will have to “de-evolve” themselves back to having them. And then they can understand friendship, and the humans will happily help them with anything they need to get home.

And that’s the end.

I’m struggling hard against my cynical side here. The fact that my entire experience in life tells me that the entire Human Spirit speech is crap is fighting against the part of me that knows What We Could Be and it’s a stalemate. It usually is.

Like, it’s nice how crying at lost kittens is to our credit, but our author didn’t say anything about genocide to balance it out.

Still, it’s nice to read a book where the Great Human Virtue that saves the day isn’t “the drive for freedom” or “unconquerability” or “sheer bloody-mindedness” but is, basically, sentimentality.

I have been waiting five years for the perfect article to link this video in

Is this a great book? Hell no. It suffers from some real pacing problems and is sometimes a bit hard to follow. It has one single woman who, while competent, is also described as “softly rounded” more than anything else. She’s also In Distress for most of the book, although once that’s over, she holds her own pretty well. It’s also got some kooky science ideas floating around, but it’s on par with most pulp.

Oh, the book’s title is a reference to the idea that more meteorites strike Kansas than anywhere else in the world. To the best of my knowledge, this is true only in the world of the book. However, it’s explained in the book that the Xacrns need helium to power their ship back home. Their meteor-ships are attracted to helium like a magnet, because they need to find it. It turns out that they keep landing in Kansas because there’s so much helium buried there. And that part’s true! Neat.

But if the aliens need helium, the second most abundant element in the universe, I’m sure they could find it in space much more easily than mining it out from under Kansas by means of mind control.


Still, it’s nice that Friendship Saves the Day.

Here’s a thing I’m wondering about:

So a lot of these “mind control” stories of the era, The Puppet Masters, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, etc., were explicitly about Communist Infiltration. Heinlein was a lot of things, but subtle wasn’t often one of them.

Anyway, the solution to so many of those stories turns out to be that Freedom wins because Individuality and America and Bootstraps.

The Gods Hate Kansas, on the other hand, ended in the spirit of cooperation. The aliens weren’t wiped out or beaten back, they were negotiated with and befriended. Their differences were recognized and accepted, even the ones that seemed inhuman, monstrous even. And everybody won. (Except for a lot of dead humans and aliens along the way).

So I guess I’m asking if this is an example of the very rare Cold War sci-fi that suggested that maybe the Commies aren’t so bad, and maybe if we would just stop yelling at each other we’d be able to set aside our differences and build a better world.

What a weird concept!

I Speak for Earth

Cover image from

I Speak for Earth by Keith Woodcott
Ace Books, 1961
Price I paid: none

“One citizen of your planet shall go to the capital of the Federation of Worlds. He shall live there for thirty days. If your representative can survive and demonstrate the ability to exist in a civilized society with creatures whose outward appearance and manner of thinking differ from his own, you shall pass the test. You will be permitted to send your starships to other planets of the galaxy.

If he fails the test, if prejudice, fear, intolerance, or stupidity trip him up, then your world will be sealed off from the stars forever!”

This was the ultimatum from space. The task before our world then was—who shall go? What man or woman could be found to take this frightening test for the whole of humanity and be certain not to fail?

It’s an edge-of-the-seat science-fiction thriller.

from the inside flap
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Wandl the Invader

Wandl the Invader by Ray Cummings
Ace Books, 1961
Originally published in Astounding Stories, 1932
Price I paid: none

There were nine major planets in the Solar System and it was within their boundaries that man first set up interplanetary commerce and began trading with the ancient Martian civilization. And then they discovered a tenth planet—a maverick!

This tenth world, if it had an orbit, had a strange one, for it was heading inwards from interstellar space, heading close to the Earth-Mars spaceways, upsetting astronautic calculations and raising turmoil on the two inhabited worlds.

But even so none suspected then just how much trouble this new world would make. For it was WANDL THE INVADER and it was no barren planetoid. It was a manned world, manned by minds and monsters and traveling into our system with a purpose beyond that of astronomical accident!

It’s a terrific novel from the classic days of great science-fiction adventure—now first published in book form.

From the inside flap
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Gremlins 2: The New Batch

Gremlins 2: The New Batch by David Bischoff
based on the screenplay written by Charlie Haas
Avon Books, 1990
Price I paid: 90¢





Who would have thought that within every playful, cuddly Mogwai there lurked a gleefully, malevolent gremlin? Billy Peltzer and his girlfriend Kate Beringer found out the hard way—and it nearly destroyed their hometown of Kingston Falls. Now the young lovers have come to New York to seek their fortunes. But the towering, high-tech office building in which they work is about to become a breeding ground for a whole new batch of deliciously malicious creatures.

Start spreading the news. The gremlins—lots of them—have come to take Manhattan…and they’re itching to comically paint the Big Apple gremlin green!

Continue reading “Gremlins 2: The New Batch”


“Impostor” by Philip K. Dick
from The Metal Smile, ed. Damon Knight
Belmont Science Fiction, 1968
Originally published in Astounding Science Fiction, June 1953
Price I paid: none


marked the beginning of our cybernetic society. How will it end?

The varied answers to that question have proved to be fertile ground for some of the greatest science fiction imaginations. But perhaps we shouldn’t look too closely into the future of cybernetics. It may be that the survival capacity of the thinking machine is greater than that of its maker…

Continue reading ““Impostor””

I’ll Be Back Next Week

Hey all, I know that I’m a giant bummer joykiller, but I’m gonna be on the road for the holidays and I don’t really have the time to present you with a proper post this week, so I’m coppin’ out and throwin’ the whole schedule out of whack.

Just so you didn’t come all this way for nothing, here are some micro-reviews of stuff I’ve read this year:

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Casca #1: The Eternal Mercenary

Image courtesy

Casca #1: The Eternal Mercenary by Barry Sadler
Casca eBooks, 2014
Originally published by Ace Charter, 1979
Price I paid: $9.98

When they flew Casey into the hospital at Nha Trang, the medics were sure he’d die. That he didn’t was only the first surprise.

The second, bigger one, was that Casey had been fighting for two thousand years, ever since that day on Golgotha when he put his lance into the side of the Man on the Cross.

“Soldier, you are content with what you are. Then that you shall remain until we meet again.”

So does Casca’s journey begin, a man who cannot die, does not age, and knows no skill but those of battle. He becomes The Eternal Mercenary.

copied from Goodreads
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Lurid Dreams

Lurid Dreams by Charles L. Harness
Avon Books, 1990
Price I paid: 90¢

Though basically a skeptic, William Reynolds had known out-of-body experiences in the past. But never before had he floated past the boundaries of Baltimore…and across the borders of time. And now, with the fires of Civil War looming on the horizon, the astonished graduate student was hobnobbing with none other than the dark poet Edgar Allen Poe. But their meeting of minds was to have chilling consequences. For a desperate Confederacy planned to use them both to remold the world—and to change history…for the worse.

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The Time Masters

Image courtesy of

The Time Masters by Wilson Tucker
Doubleday, 1971
Price I paid: none

In Knoxville, Tennessee, the men involved in the top-secret Ridgerunner project are about to complete work on the first rocket designed to probe beyond the solar system, and Secret Service agents in that city are becoming frantic over the presence of one Gilbert Nash, a man without a past.

The investigation of Nash began when it was discovered that he subscribed to every journal of science currently published in the free world—archeology [sic], geology, astronomy, meteorology, chemistry, medicine and, most disturbing of all, nuclear physics. Was he merely showing a healthy interest in science, or perhaps something more sinister? Determined to find out, the government agents are soon plunged into the most baffling and frustrating case of any of their careers.

Every fact they uncover only adds to the mystery surrounding Nash’s identity. He seems to have come into existence out of nowhere on March 8th, 1940, the date the United States decided in earnest to build an atomic bomb, and then migrated to Knoxville just in advance of the establishment of the Ridgerunner project. On the door to his office appear only his name and the word “Investigations.” And, although Nash gave his age as 31 in 1940, he appears not to have aged a day since that time.

When a key member of the Ridgerunner project goes to Nash’s office and then commits suicide a few days later, the search for Nash’s true identity and purpose becomes desperately urgent. But only Shirley Hoffman, secretary to one of the agents, is able to get close enough to Nash to actually converse with him. What he says adds a new and frightening dimension to the ever deepening mystery.

While dining, he begins to tell her the story of Gilgamesh, hero of an epic written thousands of years ago in ancient Assyria. Supposedly immortal, Gilgamesh was a man whose origins were either unknown or unrecorded, and who stalked through the land accomplishing mighty deeds.

As the story of Gilgamesh unfolds, Shirley Hoffman begins to wonder just what Nash’s interest in this ancient tale is—and by the time he reaches the end of the epic, she learns the incredible and terrifying answer.

THE TIME MASTERS is a compelling novel of science fiction that will hold readers i the grip of suspense until the very end. As the identity of Gilbert Nash is revealed—and the countdown begins that will blast the first rocket outside of the solar system—the book builds to an unforgettable and shattering climax.

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