Tuesday, April 15, 2008

What's On The Reading List - Martin Caidin

This could be subtitled books I should have read in the '70s.

As I've probably mentioned here, I'm a biblioholic. When I'm not pouring over Proust, I am constantly working to read volumes from my vast collection of paperbacks.

The Sword of Damocles
It's a little frightening now that I think about it, looking up at the stacks that ascend from the top of the bookshelf beside my desk. If they tumble I'm a goner.

But I'm gaining on the stacks, and at the moment I'm enjoying some titles acquired many moons ago, works by author Martin Caidin, an aviator turned author best known for creating Steve Austin, Cyborg, who would become the Six Million Dollar Man on TV.

The Bionic Woman remake--which I thought was a bit of all right--didn't really prompt it. I'm not sure what compelled me to pick up the title from my shelf.

My buddy and his book
My buddy had a paperback of Cyborg when The Six Million Dollar Man TV movie debuted on ABC in the '70s. We couldn't get ABC at my house. Did I mention before the local station aired mostly Homer Formby in off hours?

Anyway my buddy had a copy of Cyborg which he read back then. I didn't. Don't know why I didn't borrow it, but we had distinct protocols of ownership as I recall. We both bought the Battle for the Planet of the Apes novelization from T.A.B. the Teen Age Book Club and then raced to see who could read it first.

You couldn't find any book in the universe in those days like you can now. You were limited to what was at the drugstore or the mall or the grocery with the paperback rack where your dad was the butcher, as in my friend's case. So in 1973 I didn't get to read it or see The Six Million Dollar Man except with a lot of snow, and the world marched on.

The Writing Life
Down the road, I read an interview with Martin Caidin in Writer's Digest--the interview mentioned here, in fact--and that put Caidin on my radar. I picked up a copy of Cyborg when I ran across it used and also Wingborn, and I'm reading those books now. Cyborg first.

Wingborn's next and then I probably need to get around to the later books in the Cyborg series, slightly more intense adventures for Steve Austin than he experienced on TV, encountering Bigfoot and aliens and thwarting robberies while dressed as Robin Hood on roller skates. That was the point where I always thought the series jumped the shark. I did eventually get to see reruns.

But anyway I'm reading Martin Caidin's rather fascinating novel that introduced bionics, with an s--it's Latin or something not plural, into contemporary fiction.

A lot of the Cyborg is devoted to the treatment of Austin following his injuries while piloting a test craft, the introduction of artificial limbs and the psychological toll it all takes. Oscar Goldman is on hand to pay the six million dollars to fix Steve up. I can't think of Oscar Goldman without thinking of the scene from The 40-Year-Old Virgin where Seth Rogen looks at Steve Carrel's action figure collection and asks: "Isn't that The Six Million Dollar Man's boss? Why do you have that?"

Oscar is about like he was in the series, I guess. Steve Austin is a little different, though maybe some of the luxury features for the bionics limbs--such as self-contained breathing apparatus--were used in television episodes I missed.

All in all, I like Caidin's writing style, and Cyborg is cool sort of '70s mainstream science fiction.

Tough guy tackles sexism
, which I haven't started, is Caidin's '79 novel focusing on Kate Brandon, a skilled pilot who struggles against sexism and other challenges. Looks like it's also a promising page-turner.

After that I may need to look to Book Mooch for more titles for Caidin, who died in 1997. I guess that defeats the purpose of working through my collection, but he was a prolific author and I really want to get around to some other works including his "Messiah Stone" series and a title called Aquarius Mission.

Check out his bibliography here.


Charles Gramlich said...

I didn't know he'd been so prolific. I know I have a book or two by him around somewhere but not Cyborg.

This is cool info on a writer I'm only vaguely familiar with. Honestly, I didn't know the Six Million dollar man was made from his book. Sometimes my education is sorely lacking.

Lana Gramlich said...

Your wobbling book piles sound comparable to Charles'. I'm sure y'all could have epic book wars. *LOL*

Lana Gramlich said...

Actually, when we came home from Hurricane Katrina, the only evidence of the storm (in our apartment,) was 1 pile of Charles' books knocked over.

Christopher Mills said...

I'm guessing you made a typo there in your post. Martin Caidin died in '97, not '79.

In fact, he wrote a couple of fair licensed Indiana Jones novels near the end of his career.

Sidney said...

Yeah, I think I transposed the numbers, Chris. Thanks. I fixed it.

Erik Donald France said...

I just found Games Psyborgs Play, a Daw book, that I've had since the 70s. Must reread it.

Sidney said...

I Googled the cover art on that, Erik. It looks interesting.

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