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September/October 2014
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Froomb!, by John Lymington (1964)

JOHN Lymington (1911-83) ranks far above the likes of pseudonymous Vektis Brack and just below Edmund Cooper among the ranks of mid-twentieth-century British science-fiction writers. Froomb! could be called his magnum opus, with its bold central theme and untypically satirical intent. It is also barking mad, from first page to last.

David Packard, the British Minister for Science, has discontented explorer John Brunt put to death—by electric chair—so that he can report back later on conditions beyond our ken. Time apparently moves in different streams at variable speeds, many dead people have been revived after twenty-four hours, and Heaven is an actual place. Brunt then exists in the future which he reaches and in the present he has left. He must also fight against Time Itself to Save the World.

John has to bear the lower-case brunt of this good work, however, because "Heaven" is peopled with impotent food-pill-poppers who make the Eloi look like keep-fit fanatics. As if all that wasn't enough, Lymington finds ample room for heat rays, insecticide poisoning, drug addiction, and the ever-worsening aftermath of a nuclear war brought about by some dodgy American military experiment.

FROOMB! stands for "[The] fluid is running out of my brakes!"—the caption beneath a cartoon first published in the Detroit Messenger, which depicts the Earth-as-a-motor-car about to hurtle over a cliff. This doom-laden doodle has somehow come to represent inhuman waste and wasted humanity (or words to that apocalyptic effect). With so many other crack-brained things going on here, I can almost bring myself to believe it.

—Graham Andrews

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