"I want Tama, that is all. Your Earth does not interest me. I never liked my father's plan to populate Mercury with your Earthwomen. But the virgins of the Light Country are rebellious. They fly off in revolt if one crosses them."Tama of the Light Country in late 1930, Argosy presented to its readers the sequel to Ray Cummings's tale of Mercurian winged girls and interplanetary kidnappers, Tama, Princess of Mercury. There was no talk of Tama having royal blood in that earlier novel, and I actually thought that book afforded Tama less screen time than three or four other characters, so let's check out the 1966 Ace book printing of Tama, Princess of Mercury, and see if Tama is going to get some kind of promotion. My copy of Ace F-406 was one of the five Ray Cummings books donated to the MPorcius Library recently by Joachim Boaz, and has an interior illo by Jack Gaughan and a cool cover by Jerome Podwil. (I'm looking forward to seeing Tama fight that bizarre monster!)
Tama, Princess of Mercury picks up the Tama saga some months after the events of Tama of the Light Country. Journalist Jack Dean and scientific assistant Rowena Palisse ("a very tall girl, with the regal aspect of a Nordic queen") have been married, and Tama of Mercury, leader of the rebellious winged girls of Mercury, and inventor Guy Palisse are engaged--they will be married on Mercury once the inferior conjunction arrives and Bolton Industries' Flying Cube whisks them thither. Our cast of characters is hanging out in a cabin in the woods, looking forward to boarding the Cube in a week, when a Mercurian spacecraft ("a huge silver ball, thirty feet or so in diameter") appears and carries off Rowena and Tama!
Jack, Guy, and some minor characters rush to Bolton Industries in New Jersey (yay!), board the Cube and take off after the raiders.
In a two chapter flashback we learn that Roc, son of Croat, is in command of the silver ball, and he figured out where our heroes were relaxing by kidnapping Jimmy Turk and using a truth drug on him. Jimmy is a federal cop and Jack's best friend--like most federal workers Jimmy spends much of his time leaking scoops to the media, in Jimmy's case, our hero and narrator, Jack.
|This Italian omnibus edition |
includes both Tama books
Newlyweds Jack and Rowena are still on the sphere with Dorrek and Muta, which Dorrek directs into the eternal night of the Cold Country to prepare for the next phase of the barbarian invasion. Rather than wait for the barbarians to march on them, the people of the Light Country, their force augmented by the Earthlings and their Flying Cube, attack Dorrek's camp. Cummings does a decent job with the battle, which features interesting ray artillery and defensive countermeasures on both sides, the flying girls on the Light Country side and the giant earthbound bugs on the Cold Country side, and lots of sneaking around behind enemy lines on the parts of our heroes. Jimmy even manages to fight despite his broken leg (we are told the low Mercurian gravity facilitiates this feat of heroism), and we witness the final fates of the duplicitous Roc and Muta. Lots of Mercurians get killed; Cummings, like so many creators of fiction, seems to be appealing to people's fascination with blood and death at the same time he makes an anti-war statement.
In the end the Cold Country army is wiped out and Guy and Tama get married. Narrator Jack Dean suggests that a new era of interplanetary travel is about to begin, but we who have read "Aerita of the Light Country" know that this did not happen.
|While it seems to be the same length as Tama of the Light Country, Tama, Princess of Mercury|
was serialized across four weekly issues of Argosy instead of three
Ray Cummings fans rejoice--more Ray Cummings from Argosy in our next episode!