Wildside Press, 2017, 173 pages
Life is never dull when you've created a new world or two! After restoring Princess Anya to her throne on Mars, Rachel, Katie, and Jack return to Venus to rescue Sonia, Katie's adopted sister, from the clutches of Da Mayor. With the help of Jack's brother and his friends, they also fight to free the inhabitants of the oppressed city. But Da Mayor can change the future and even erase Rachel from the world she created! Can Rachel and her friends survive long enough to overcome Da Mayor's evil plot and save the lives of everyone on Venus? Or is the planet doomed to return to a scorching, sulfur-filled death-trap, killing all who live there?
Monsters of Venus is a sequel to Seven Against Mars, which was a delightfully daffy bit of alternate universe science fiction in which a teenage refugee from the Warsaw ghetto creates a new universe — literally — with a typewriter and the help of her favorite American pulp magazines.
Now, Rachel Zilber is safely situated on Mars, ruled by Princess Anya, the Mary Sue double of herself that she created in her own stories. Her best friend Katie, a Texian who came from an alternate future (or was it the actual future?), are celebrating their victory over Lord Ares when their friend Sonya — another Jewish refugee from Rachel's Nazi-infested reality — gets kidnapped and abducted to Venus.
On one level, this is another old-fashioned pulp adventure in which the girls (and a few guys) go running through the jungles of Venus, fight 3-meter tall Venusian aboriginals, and engage in zap-gun duels with the tyrant of Venus, Da Mayor Beppo Bellissini.
On another level, it's a weird meta-fictional exercise, as half the characters are actually creations of Rachel's typewriter. As Rachel and her friends begin to realize the nature of their reality-altering powers and what's happening when someone else uses the same trick, the actual Venus — the one with an 800-degree temperature and an atmosphere of sulfuric acid and carbon dioxide — threatens to spill over the grey jungle Venus of Rachel's planetary romance.
On yet another level, the story is full of allegories, just like Seven Against Mars. The villain, Beppo Bellissini, is literally an evil gym teacher, but he takes on a more monstrous role; as the villain of the previous book was a Martian Hitler, so is Da Mayor a Venusian Mussolini.
While there's a lot to enjoy here, the story is also weird and confusing at times. As if mixing pre- and post-war Earth, an apocalyptic future Texas, and an alternate pulp universe where Mars and Venus are inhabited wasn't strange enough, Monsters of Venus has Rachel skipping through time and space, meeting her relatives in New York and adding more characters both "real" and "fictional" to the story.
The tone also never quite seems to settle on farcical or horrific — Bellissini is almost a cartoon villain (a literal evil gym teacher!) but the violence (and implied sexual abuse) makes him anything but comical. It's satisfying to await his inevitable defeat, but he doesn't quite work as a serious metaphor for fascism.
Both of these books are quick reads and probably appropriate for more mature teenagers. The ending, like the previous book, definitely suggests another volume is on the way.
Also by Martin Berman-Gorvine: My review of Seven Against Mars.
My complete list of book reviews.