Mars Attacks #1: Martian Deathtrap
Bulbous-headed, needle-toothed Martians do unspeakable things to hapless babes in bikinis and other Earthlings in this disappointing first of two novels spun off from a controversial set of 1962 playing cards. The Mars Attacks cards, issued by Topps, created an uproar for their garish depictions of gore and sexual mayhem occasioned by a modern-day Martian invasion of Earth. Curiously, the novel, which focuses on a mixed band of Earthlings as they're stalked by Martians and other nasties in an isolated mansion-turned-museum, is less graphically detailed than the cards, which might have been a relief had suspense or creativity taken the place of shock. But as imagined by Archer (who's written some paperback Star Trek and Predator novels), the Martians think, feel and act exactly like humans. More alien-like, in fact, are the insects-wasps, mosquitoes, beetles-the Martians blow up to giant size. But even big bugs don't add much buzz to this tired yarn, a repetitious, near-random series of chases, stalkings and killings that works neither as SF horror nor as schlock. (May) ~ FYI: The second Mars Attacks novel, War Dogs of the Golden Horde, will be published in July. Meanwhile, Tim Burton (Batman) is slated to direct a film based on the trading cards.