Blog: Commentary from the den of a pulp super-fan

Pulp Heroes conclusion: ‘Sanctuary Falls’

Posted by at 10:00 am Wednesday, June 14, 2017 in New Pulp, Pastiche, Review, Wold Newton Universe
Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

'Pulp Heroes: Sanctuary Falls'One of the works I got into when I got back into pulp (and discovered New Pulp) was the pulp epics of Wayne Reinagel. He was working on a trilogy called Pulp Heroes, the first being the massive More Than Mortal, which came out in 2008.

In that one we saw his takes on four major pulp heroes: Doc Savage (Doc Titan), The Shadow (The Darkness), The Avenger (The Guardian), and The Spider (The Scorpion), plus their aides and assistants.

More Than Mortal also makes use of the Wold Newton concept of Philip José Farmer to create the backdrop to the story, weaving in various heroes and characters from earlier fiction.

Clocking in at over 400 pages, it was actually a pretty good read.

It was followed two years later by a massive sequel (nearly 600 pages), Khan Dynasty, that was actually more of a prequel, being set before More Than Mortal.

We were promised the conclusion in Sanctuary Falls. And finally after seven years, we get it. All 800+ pages!

While the main story is set in 1949, portions take place earlier to setup the main event. In those flashbacks, we see stuff dealing with Nikola Tesla and his electrical experiments, and various events with the main characters.

In 1949, several of the heroes are retired or are considering retiring. This is not helped by the government going after several of them. Much of this is done by Secret Agent X, now more an assassin under the orders of “K-9.” (The identity of K-9 will be revealed at the end, but I have a bit of problem accepting who it was, as well as how Agent X was used. I would have expected better of him as a character.)

The main issue is to stop the end of the world caused by Tesla’s experiments for the U.S. government to create a “death ray” after the destruction of his Wardenclyffe Tower. These experiments caused some of the events known as the “Bermuda Triangle.”  Adding to the tension are two separate plots to invade or destroy the US.  One plot hopes to use the effort to undone the Tesla experiment to destroy the Southwest US and take over.  The other plot is to drop atomic bombs in the waters off the east and west coasts and cause tsunamis.

This story also brings in Hugo Danner (from Gladiator), the Time Traveler, Doctor Nikola, and a variety of other characters, both real and fictitious.

At the end, our main characters seem to have stepped aside for new characters, strongly hinted as being based on various comic-book heroes. The year is understandable, as that was the year Street & Smith shutdown their pulp and comics line, killing off The Shadow and Doc Savage. While Thrilling kept a few pulp heroes going, it was pretty much the end of the pulps to be replaced by comic books, paperbacks, and TV.

While a massive read, the story is so engaging it moves right along. But to be honest, there could be a lot of trimming. Several chapters, while very interesting, don’t really tie in to the main story such that they really need to be there. I wonder if there had been more editorial control this work could have been reduced a bit. And the heavy use of cameos and hints does get a bit overdone at times.  As with prior works, at times it can be hard to figure if a character is original or based on some fictional character, under a new name.

What’s next for Reinegel? Well, I’ve read and reviewed most of his other works that are out. I will be getting The Cast Away soon. Now, he does mention that Modern Marvels is a trilogy, and we have only gotten the first volume, Viktoriana so far. So hopefully we’ll get Gothika, the promised second work and the final volume as well. I just hope it’s not years and years away.

What do you think?