Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Thursday, May 5, 2022


 The Radio Beasts by "Ralph Milne Farley"  (Roger Sherman Hoar)  (first published in Argosy All-Story Magazine in four parts:  March 21-April 11, 1925; first book publication, 1964)

In an all-too obvious nod to Edgar Rice Burroughs, Ralph Milne Farley began his "Radio" series with 
The Radio Man, a four-part serial in Argosy All-Story Magazine in 1924, which magazine laughably touted the sequence as "scientifically accurate."  The Radio Man was published in book form in 1948, then reprinted two years later as An Earthman on Venus, under which title it was also printed in comic book format in 1951.  (A few years ago I linked to the comic book version on this blog.  Since The Radio  Beasts was the direct sequel to that first novel, you can check it out again for a quick briefing on the events of the first book at

The Radio series follows the adventures of Miles Standish Cabot, a Harvard-educated scientist who is likely the world's greatest authority on the workings of an scientific possibilities of radio.  (Back in the day, radio was a popular hobby and many people studied the various types and possibilities of this form of communication.  There was a natural synchronicity between radio buffs of the time and fans of science fiction -- a genre that would even have a name for several years yet to come.)  Cabot managed go devise a way to use radio as a matter transmitter to journey to Venus, a world of strange beings and danger.  The planet is called Pores by its inhabitants.

Actually, that's not right.  Pores is the name of that planet's large continent, which is completely surrounded by boiling oceans -- beyond which may or may not be unknown lands.  There are two major races on Pores, the Cupians and the Formians.  The former is human-like, although with antenna through which they communicate, small, wisp-like wings on their back, and six fingers on each hand and six toes on each foot.  Because of their telepathic way of communicating, the Cupians have no ears and consider Cabot deformed because of the two "mushrooms" on each side of his head.  The  Cupians are white -- something not really overtly stressed, yet something you should keep in mind.

The Formians are giant ants, black and naked and numerous.  They are ruled by Formis, their queen, who is very young and easily influenced.  For 500 years, the Formians ruled the planet, enslaving the Cupians.  The Cabot arrived on Venus and led the Cupians in an uprising, defeating the ant-beasts and bringing peace to Cupia.  Pores was then divided into two areas -- the larger Cupia and the much smaller Formia, which held the remnants of the ant race.  Peace ruled over both kingdoms.  Cabot went on to marry Princess Lilla, the beautiful daughter of King Kew XII.

Consistency and logic are not the hallmarks of early planetary romances.  On the biological forefront, there's the problem if interspecies sex.  As we open with The Radio Beasts, Lilla is expecting Cabot's child.  That is not really a problem because the biological incompatibilities are conveniently ignored.  The hero gets the beautiful alien girl and the girl easily bears the hero's child.  It worked for John Carter and Dejah Thoris so it  can work for Cabot and Lilla.

And then there's the problem of slavery.  As slaves, evidently the Cupians worked only four hours a day.  Freed from the burden of the Formians, the Cupians needed only work two hours a day.  Cabot proposed the Cupians use the extra time to create great civic works.  Being a Harvard grad and a former star swimmer and marksman in college, naturally Cabot's first idea for a project was to build a large stadium.  Go figure.

Cabot is called to attend the dedication of the stadium with the king.  Because of her pregnancy Lilla stayed behind at home.   The dastardly Prince Yuri, King Kew's nephew and the next in line for the throne, who was also a big bad villain of the first book, appears and shoots the king through the heart and then declares himself king.  Yuri has allied himself with the Formians and also has a strong corps of Cupian followers.  Quickly the old government is destroyed and the Formians help Yuri to consolidate his power.  A bloody civil was ensues and Cabot goes through many adventures trying to save the kingdom.  He gets knocked unconscious a lot.  Cabot is also trying to get to Lilla, who had (it seems) given birth the a boy just hours before the old king was assassinated -- thus, Cabot's son is the rightful heir to the throne.  Alas, when Cabot finally reaches their home, the place is destroyed, Lilla is captured, and Cabot's infant son has been slain by Yuri.

The writing in this book is atrocious, not withstanding the constant scientific/pseudo-scientific/just plain hogwash exposition that is laced throughout the tale.  ("Before I tell you what happens next, let explain the scientific workings behinds this or that invention that Cabot developed."  **sigh**)  There are many giant and deadly monsters placed in Cabot's path, but through luck, serendipity, and a tad of deus ex machina, Cabot perseveres. Along the way he discovers a lost race under hidden in the Caves of Kar -- the ancestors of the Cupian race and the guardians of the lost religion (including two called Glamp-glamp and Nan-nan!)  There's an off-handed allusion to Freemasonry.  And there's the horse-sized bees called the Hymernians, which Cabot discovered is actually another intelligent race on the planet and whom he enters into a treaty to have the bees fight on the Cupian side.  We also see Cabot as a frequent dim-bulb; his stupidity is needed at time to thrust the plot forward.  When he is not being stupid, Cabot is a forceful personality who is able to build alliances and command a faithful following.

I have mentioned the distasteful racial undertones of the book.  The author was a Harvard educated Constitutional lawyer who also served as a state Senator and state Attorney General.  As a teacher, he specialized in mathematics and engineering.  He developed a system for aiming large guns by the stars.  The author's family name spits old New England values.  Sadly, one of those values was blind racism, which seems to flow through this narrative.  Also disturbing was the blatant call for genocide.  Cabot is forceful in his opinion that two intelligent races cannot occupy one planet:  one race -- the giant black ants -- must be completely eliminated, even if that means Cabot must kill his one ant ally and friend, Doggo.   Eventually Cabot allows a few ants to survive -- in zoos, for the edification of Cupian children.  (Doggo's body was never found or identified, saving Cabot the task of killing his friend.)  There's a hint at the end of the book that Cabot may also have to eliminate the intelligent bee race of Hymerians with whom Cabot had entered a treaty.

All in all, this is a rather distasteful book with enough thrilling action scenes and exotic creatures to please pulp readers of the mid-Twenties.  The adventures of Miles Cabot continued in The Radio Planet, The Radio WarThe Radio Minds, and The Radio Minds of Mars.  Similarly titled stories The Radio Flyers and The Radio Gun-Runners are not part of the series.

Let me leave you with a few random snippets from  The Radio Beasts:

As he increased his speed, his centrifugal acceleration, like that of a horse-chestnut which a small boy whirls on a string, gradually forced him outward and upward, thus offsetting to a large extent the sliding action of the sand.


...all that he could think of was that old Harvard Glee Club song about the darky, which ends with the words:

     "Oh, Lord, if you can't help me,

     For heaven's sake, don't help the bear!"


"This bee is a friend of mine," the earthman asserted.

You have been warned.


  1. Glad to see you here, Jerry. Sorry the book was a chore to read.

  2. I had a copy of THE RADIO BEASTS for years...but never read it. Loved the cover on the ACE Books edition!