“Realm of the Alien” by Chester Delray (Dublin, Ireland: Grafton Publications)

Featured as No. 2 in the Blue Star Adventure series is Realm of the Alien by Chester Delray (the alias of Francis G. Rayer). This 64-page novella was published by Grafton Publications (Ireland).

Copies of this original Irish-published science fiction tale are quite scarce. No copies are held by any major UK libraries, according to the COPAC system, and only two in the United States per WorldCat. Dates of publication vary widely, from 1945-1947, whereas United States libraries guess 1950s, which is entirely erroneous.

The blurb on the rear cover suggests a tantalizing read!
GRAFTON Realm Of The Alien
FLYING TO VENUS
Here’s a spellbinding epic of the vast mysterious worlds that science brings nearer day by day. You can go by space-ship to a land of thrills and terror in this gripping vivid panorama of life on Venus. By a brilliant new author of scientific fiction, the opening story makes credible an adventure that even the scientists never dared to dream. Meet, through Chester Delray, a civilization versed
in its own monstrous methods of defence and terror … and fight, with him, the white man’s tense battle against the hidden powers that are more real than ever in the world today.

Too bad the novel hardly attains the level of grandeur presented in the blurb! The blurb is utter rot, however, there are some redeeming values to this novel.

A vast spaceship with perhaps hundreds of crew-members is flying to Venus to explore the planet, ascertain whether it is safe to inhabit, locate the rich ores believed to be buried beneath the planet’s crust, and, learn just what did happen to all of the previous ships that made the same journey. All the ships safely landed, reported back to Earth, but, then, inexplicably, radio silence followed. What was their fates?

The Flight Captain of the Starstream is Hughes, a man quite suited to the ordeal, departs the ship first, to test the air. In reality, we all know the Flight Captain would hardly be the person, among hundreds, to walk off the ship and provide such data. However, they land, he tests the air, discovers it suitable to breathe, then bizarrely enough, begins to head off on his own.

When Henson, leader of the expedition, orders him back, Hughes disregards the direct command and continues merrily on his way. Realizing that something is awry, one would hardly suggest sending out another person…and yet, the entire ship eventually disembarks and follows Hughes into the Venusian jungle, leaving Henson as the sole person aboard.

He eventually steps outside and finds himself under possibly a hypnotic suggestion, and carefree, ambles off into the jungle, too. He’s unsure where the others have gone, but his body seems content to walk in the same general direction…. Eventually, he is captured by sinister-looking creatures with tentacles, and led away and reunited with the rest of the hapless crew.

All captured, the crew are led to a Venusian city, and tossed into a jail. Also thrown in is another Venusian, smaller in stature, and unlike their captors, quite timid. The linguistics expert learns their language in no-time-flat (quite conveniently). This man learns that there are TWO distinct races on the planet, and naturally the sinister ones are “mad” and not right in the head. An electronics tower emits some form of radiation to keep their volatile insanity under control and enables them to capture the Earthlings.

Realizing that they are all to be sacrificed, they make a concerted rush at the door, knock it down, take out and overpower the jailers, and effect their escape. However, those that control the tower suspend their attempts, mentally, and they are re-jailed.

Their last attempt at freedom is when they are led to their deaths. While led out of the jail, they again overthrow the villains, and this time, make for the tower. Oddly and inexplicably enough, whomever controls the tower never flips the switches ON to halt their progress. The crew break into the tower, beat down the only Venusian controlling an array of switches in a second room, but find themselves otherwise trapped. The entire city of Venusians are jointly attacking the tower, using ladders to scale the walls and climb in the windows.

Swarming the tower, they break in, and a mad melee ensues. The humans are rapidly losing ground, and finally, they take notice of the timid alien (whom they rescued and carried along with them). It is suggesting they destroy the apparatus in the first room. Doing so, they learn the first room controlled the madness of the Venusians, and soon, they are brutally fighting among themselves.

The crew make good their escape, return to the ship, discover it is covered with lichen, remove it from the ship, and take off. They are free!

Or, are they? Nope. We’ve only finished half the novel.

The lichen has infiltrated the entire ship, is indestructible, and to add fire to their dilemma, the “pods” that the plant develops actually is the birthing stations for more “mad” Venusians. They burst out, fully developed, and pandemonium ensues on-board the Starstream. Overwhelmed by the aliens, they try to negotiate for their lives. The aliens suggest otherwise. They want to return to Earth, kill off the entire race, and take over the planet, in an expansion effort!

If they return home, the entire planet will be covered in this rapid-growing pink lichen with more aliens hatching in no-time. In an effort to dupe the aliens, they suggest landing on a Neptune moon, but the aliens themselves linguistically learn English! Realizing it is a trick, they negotiate to let the Flight Captain survive, if he takes them to Earth.

Shockingly, he agrees.

The crew, aware of what has transpired, make a mad dash for the flight room, but are repelled, constantly, after repeated attempts. Their own numbers rapidly diminishing, the crew’s apparently only female member commands their attention, informing that she has been experimenting with ways to kill the lichen. (Really? When the hell…?) She injects the serum into herself, and runs out to infect lichen and aliens. The crew is mortified that she has sacrificed herself, and head out to rescue her or die vainly trying.

The aliens shockingly begin screaming “The Great Plague” over and over, and suffer strange rashes. In a mad dash to escape the plague, they open the air-locked doors (in space) and are vacuumed out into the void, to die. The lichen, exposed to the woman’s “plague,” crumbles and deteriorates. The crew escape being sucked out the door by locking themselves in a compartment. But, with that door open, and that they’re speeding recklessly toward the Earth, and the Flight Captain, deprived of oxygen, now dead, who is piloting the ship?

Nobody.

They are all gonna die!!!!

Nope. In eye-rolling fashion, Henson makes his way to the flight cabin, takes control of the vessel, and peels off hitting a city and smoothly sails back into space. (All without being sucked out into space?)

All are saved (drats!)

Hurrah, and thank goodness; I’m done reading this science fiction tragedy. While it reads seemingly like complete rubbish, it’s worthwhile to note that unlike many UK sf pulpy stories, the female protagonist is never portrayed as a sexual object, and performs a heroic task, selflessly exposing herself to danger. And yes, she lives. The plague was only a danger to the aliens, not the humans. Sadly, we are never given to know just how she came to create the toxic cocktail, avoided being sucked out of the airlock, along with various other faults in this novel.

But hell, it is fiction, after all…

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“Realm of the Alien” by Chester Delray (Dublin, Ireland: Grafton Publications)

2 thoughts on ““Realm of the Alien” by Chester Delray (Dublin, Ireland: Grafton Publications)

  1. Denny Lien says:

    Another obscure item I’ve owned for decades but never felt the urge to read.

    A couple (O.K., three) f idle thoughts:

    Why the pseudonym? I presume Rayer, under his real name, had at least a tiny bit of a following, while “Chester Delray,” besides not existing, did not (and he sounds like a B-movie actor specializing in “grizzled old storekeeper” roles.)

    Second thought: Why did so many sf stories of the period assume first voyage to a new planet would involve a ship which a huge crew? I suppose it was a vague assumption that “that’s the way Columbus, Magellan, etc. did it,” but a little thought suggests that sailing ships (a) could supplement their food store by fishing and (b) did not have to carry oxgen for each crewmember to breathe for several days/weeks/months. . It might be more believable if there was a sense that running the ship was so complex that scores or hundreds of crew were required, but I can’t recall ever seeing that explanation — usually things boil down to a pilot, co-pilot, navigator, maybe a doctor, and otherwise you have only a huge pile of eventual cannonfodder who spend the voyage playing cards, plotting mutiny, or whatever.

    Solving the “how to quickly learn to communicate with an utterly alien species” problem doesn’t really have any good solutions — telepathy is actually probably the least bad. The “genius linguist (human or alien) learns amazingly fast option is pretty much always unbelievable, as it seems to be herre. (The “genius alien linguist has been studying old earth radio broadcasts for decades” is a trifle more believable, but awfully hackneyed.) The mechanical Universal Translator is only a little more acceptable, and only if the device takes a long time and a lot of input to perform, as opposed to “whizz-whirr-clank-and it’s off and translating within fifteen seconds of being unpacked> Worst of all of course is the “everybody speaks English with no explanation and the author hopes you won’t notice” version, common in comic books and cartoons and, alas, sometimes even in STAR TREK and such.
    .

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello Denny,
      Impossible to answer the first question, short of guessing that either the publisher preferred an alias or another option is that Rayer felt the story was inferior and not worthy of his name. Who knows? However, he was NOT yet established as an author; his earliest works appear shortly after WW2. One might ask why Tubb used so many aliases, except we do know that Curtis Warren Ltd demanded authors use them, to control them. That way, if an author became popular, it wouldn’t/couldn’t occur via their own name. Too many reasons…

      To the second question, why so many crew members? Well, in this case, like many 1980s adventure movies, it made for a wonderful “body count.” The story would have ended too abruptly after five people died in your alternate option of a handful aboard.

      Onto the third thought… I concur that the linguistics expert present couldn’t possibly have learned a new, foreign language, let alone, from another planet, so quickly. Nearly impossible, and telepathy wouldn’t work, either. Who knows what an alien’s “feelings” would translate to in our noggins? At least, following the implied “gestures” of an alien race may be a good guide toward “intent,” inasmuch as landing on an island of full of cannibals rubbing their bellies, hoisting spears, and indicating that you should climb into the boiling cauldron which is too hot for mere bathing purposes. 🙂

      Still, even the worst of fiction has good intentions. The story overall was a darned fun read, in general, even if a bit on the juvenile side. His fiction output those first two years were either SF or juvenile stories, at age 25-26. Question is: what (if any) undocumented stories did he write and sell elsewhere? Was his first sale indeed a children’s story to Gerald G Swan? He’s not high on my list of author’s to research, but I’m always happy to tackle such projects, especially if a family-member supplies data.

      Like

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