Assassins from Tomorrow, by Peter Heath
Prestige Books, 1967
Price I paid: 90¢
The mystery of the Kennedy assassination has attracted many amateur investigators—but none quite like young Mark Brown, the brilliant but footloose young son of America’s leading theoretical physicist. Like others, Mark Brown had only a theory to work on. Unlike others, his theory led him straight into trouble—and into even deeper mystery…
Mark Brown needed help—and that help could only come from Jason Starr and Adam Cyber, the Mind Brothers. The three made up a team of scientific brains unmatched in human history—but the problem they faced was enormous. The complexities included a mysterious artificial satellite and a weird organization called “Sutra”…and the only thing certain was that at least one of the three would die. The biggest question was whether the Earth would die, too….
At last, the long-awaited sequel to The Mind Brothers!
Whoever did the cover art for The Mind Brothers either was unavailable or just phoned it in, because the art for this book was nowhere near as good.
In addition, this book was released in 1967, the same year as its predecessor. Peter Heath was on a roll. It takes some real talent to churn out that much inane crap in less than twelve months.
For those of you who read the review of The Mind Brothers, I’ll tell you up front that this book was quite a bit more of the same stuff. But it had some twists, so stay with me here.
The book begins by introducing us to our new character, Mark Brown. Mark is on his way to Dallas and he’s a complete jerk. He’s on his way to investigate the Kennedy assassination, because all the less cliché conspiracy theories were taken.
I will say that 1967 seems like a really early date for a science fiction book about the Kennedy assassination. I know there are differences, but if someone put out a sci-fi book in 2005 about someone working to discover the conspiracy behind 9/11, we’d all think that was pretty tasteless, right? Heck, if a book came out today with that kind of plot we’d probably consider it pretty tasteless.
The Kennedy assassination has been hashed and rehashed in conspiracy and science fiction so many times that I wonder if we’re desensitized to it. I mean, the fifty years between then and now is a large part of it, obviously, but I still feel like it’s a part of popular culture a bit more than good taste would dictate. A lot more than plenty of other tragedies, to the point where it’s really clichéd.
Anyhoo, back to the plot. Mark is on his way to Dallas because he thinks that he can discover something there that everyone else missed, apparently, and on his way he gets on a lot of people’s nerves, not least my own. He sings a song about the Kennedy assassination and makes a nuisance of himself at a bar. He eventually gets the crap beaten out of him, and I rejoiced a little when it happened.
We then cut to Washington and our old friend Jason Starr. Jason’s testifying at a Senate hearing on overpopulation and makes a lot of trite comments about Washington stuffed-shirts and their inability to think about anyone but themselves. Sure, he’s right, but I don’t need to hear it from him. He already lost all credibility in the last book.
He loses a lot more credibility in this book.
He returns to his apartment and receives a collect call from Annapolis. It’s Mark, who has managed to escape from jail in Texas and make his way to Washington. His dad, apparently, is a brilliant theoretical physicist of Jason’s acquaintance. Jason calls up his friend and MIND BROTHER Adam Cyber, who is currently at a cocktail party with several prominent scientific figures, including Mark’s dad. Adam says he’ll join Jason after the party’s over, and Jason goes to meet Mark, who is in pretty bad shape. Jason leaves Mark with a lady friend of his and goes down to Texas to see what he can discover.
Cut to Jason on the road north from Houston to Dallas, when he narrowly survives an assassination attempt. Somebody, it seems, has shot a missile at him. A low-yield nuclear missile, I think it was. It would seem that someone doesn’t want THE MIND BROTHERS on this case.
He meets up with Adam and Mark again, and they hop on Jason’s private Learjet. Onboard is the most amazing computer in the world, apparently, since Adam brought back the knowledge to create it from the future. It might be based on technology from 50000 years from now, but it didn’t strike me as altogether that impressive. I think they used it to calculate some orbital dynamics or something.
Readers of the previous book or its review might remember how incredibly racist it was. Well look out, because the MIND BROTHERS are going to Mexico.
Actually the racism was toned-down a little bit for this book, it seems. Yeah, we get terms like “wetback” occasionally, but they’re only used by people identified as racist anyway. We definitely don’t get any editorializing on the matter of devil worship like we did with the Chinese in the previous book. I suppose that’s an improvement.
Some research with the amazing future computer has revealed a shocking fact, there was a secret satellite launched into Earth orbit on the day that Kennedy was assassinated! Could this have something to do with the conspiracy? It turns out that yeah, it sort of did. Really it was a bit of a coincidence. Jason and Mark manage to bring down the satellite via computer control and they find it in the ocean off of Mexico. It turns out to have a guy inside! A guy that was in this satellite for almost three and a half years! Yeah, he’s pretty dead. But he’s got a high-tech camera with him that he was using to take pictures of Russia and China and Vietnam and so forth. Apparently it was a really high-powered camera, because it could resolve individual people from orbit. What apparently happened is this astronaut got it into his head to take pictures of that fateful parade in Dallas and was able to find out who really did the shooting, so the government basically said they weren’t going to bring him back down again. Pretty grim.
Adam Cyber, who has made very few appearances in this book as it is, has gone missing. Jason decides to go to a movie star party. While there, it is revealed that there is a secret installation in one of the old Indian (it’s never stated which kind of Indians, but I assume Aztec) temples in the area. Jason goes to investigate.
He gets captured by the real folks behind the entire book. The back cover synopsis called them an organization called “Sutra,” but I’m pretty sure whoever wrote the back cover made that up. They’re never referred to as such in the text of the book. Anyway, they set him loose in the jungle, along with Hillary, a lady friend of his from earlier in the book. They tell him that if he manages to escape, he’ll go free, but he’ll never know what was going on the whole time. If he gets caught, he’ll be killed, but at least his curiosity will be satisfied.
To prove how serious they are, they arrange for him to be hunted by some kind of robot animal that shoots poison. The book goes on and on about how man is the most interesting thing to hunt, because he’s intelligent and crafty and all that kind of stuff. It unintentionally refutes this claim by making the prey of this hunt Jason Starr.
He’s caught but not immediately killed. He’s taken back to the old temple where he’s told, outright, the entire point of this book.
The folks behind this whole conspiracy are also time travellers. They’re not from as far ahead as Adam Cyber, only coming from around 5000 years in the future. Their future is pretty crapsack. It’s overpopulated and devastated from nuclear war. They figure the best way they can prevent their terrible future from happening, and this is just great, is killing people. These guys have been here instigating major wars and events that would result in the deaths of millions, if not billions, of people, just so they can set back the population growth up to their own time.
Man, I just don’t know. Not only is their plan so totally evil that it’s boring, it’s also stupid. 5000 years is a loooong time. You could knock our population down to a million people and we’d be back on track for overpopulation in hardly any time at all compared to 5000 years. Why go with that kind of inane plan, future people? It would be so much more effective to use your future technology to just convince us to not breed so much. Or something. Anything. Jesus.
Incidentally, this group of future people were also behind the Kennedy assassination, because in some vague way it would throw the world into chaos and help them meet their goal more quickly.
It also turns out that several of the people we met throughout the book were also from the future, including Mark’s “Dad,” who it turns out was just replaced by a future duplicate guy about six months ago.
The group has access to a time travel device that resembles a big black hole. They’ve got several of them stored in places around the world, so obviously Jason won’t be able to stop them all, at least not for another book or so. To prove just how evil they are, it turns out they’ve captured Adam Cyber and are going to fling him through time and space to get rid of him. Where are they sending him? Well, this is really stupid too.
They’re sending him to the center of the Earth. Okay, I can kind of dig that, I guess. If you’ve got the capability that’s a pretty good way of ensuring that the person you want to kill won’t survive and come back to bother you. But there’s a bit of specificity there that I just didn’t get. Not only are they sending him to the Earth’s core, they’re sending him backwards in time as well. Why do you need to do that? And more importantly, they’re sending him back all of six minutes.
The only thing I can figure is that the time machine can, like many time machines, send things both through space and time. Apparently it can’t just do one or the other, though. It’s a pretty crap time machine.
In a shocking development, they actually manage to kill Adam, though. He just vanishes through the time warp, never to be seen again. I was surprised.
The bad guys then threaten to send Jason through time as well. Their first intended destination is fifty million years ago, but before they can get him set up somebody storms into the hideout. It’s one of the Mexican guys that was helping Jason earlier in the book, a guy named Mendez. Somehow or another he figured out what was going on as well, and has come to save the day. In the chaos, Jason jumps up onto a crane and starts shoving stuff into the time warp. He quickly deduces that the time warp can only send a certain amount of mass through itself or it overloads. Doing exactly what you’d expect, he uses the crane to collapse the ceiling. Stuff happens, and the day is saved.
Oy, what a ride that book was.
Like its predecessor, this book didn’t really have much of a coherent plot. In fact, making a map of the plots of these two books would result in two very similar maps. You start off with one plot, in this case the conspiracy to kill President Kennedy, wind up in a foreign country, and then find out that someone in that foreign country is the mastermind behind a global conspiracy to take over the world and/or blow it up. Yeah, the only difference in this book and the other was that in this one, a protagonist died and there was slightly less racism. Also less sex, I guess.
And Jason Starr is just an awful, awful character. He really does very little. He’s almost more of a viewpoint character than a protagonist. He doesn’t do much, he just allows things to happen around him. If something needs to be figured out, he gets Adam Cyber to do it. If people need to be killed, one of the sidekicks he picks up along the way does it for him. I’m pretty sure he didn’t even fly his own plane. He had a computer that he didn’t even design do that for him.
He’s also just such a stupid character. Like in the other book, he’s repeatedly called a brilliant man or a genius, but he still consistently fails to show any evidence of that. Adam Cyber is obviously the brains of the operation, and with him gone he’s replaced pretty quickly by Mark Brown.
In The Mind Brothers we found out that Jason has really stupid ideas about race and religion. We don’t get as much of that in this book, but instead we find out that he’s also entirely clueless about biology. One instance, early in the book, establishes that Jason is afraid of knives. Not a smart thing to be afraid of if you’re going to be an international science spy, but whatever. He compares this fear to the irrational fears other people have, for instance snakes and spiders and my personal favorite, “thousand-legged centipedes.” There are SO MANY THINGS WRONG WITH THAT STATEMENT.
But possibly worse than that comes later in the book, when he’s on the boat looking for the downed satellite. Mark and Mendez decide to hunt a shark they see nearby for no real reason. Jason points out that normally he’s against killing animals without cause, but not so with sharks. It’s because sharks are “destroyers, like men.” Okay, so not just an idiot but a person who loathes the human race. Great job, Jason Starr. You’re a protagonist we can all hope to avoid to be. Why do you even do anything at all? Oh wait, that’s right. You don’t.
There’s a third book in this series, apparently, and when I find it, I promise you I’ll have a review up detailing the next stupendously asinine adventures of THE REMAINING MIND BROTHER.