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Doc Ardan: City Of Gold And Lepers

Author: Guy d'Armen
Genre: Adventure
Reviewed by Kevin R. Tipple

10080401While many readers are familiar with the exploits of Doc Savage, not so many are familiar with his French predecessor, Doc Ardan. In this novel, which may have inspired the literary legend of Doc Savage, grand adventure is the key concept. And while some may dismiss the novel as mere pulp fiction, for which it is a fine example of some of the best France has to offer, it is very interesting to read a novel that so vividly describes the use of weapons of mass destruction and the possibilities as well as consequences of nuclear energy. For its time, this was a visionary book and for this time, it still is visionary as well as being a very good read.

It is 1927 and the explorer Doctor Francis Ardan is leading a small group across the wasteland of the Koko Nor desert of Tibet. The group is small, the land is harsh and then they are attacked. Ambushed, shot, and left for dead while the rest of his group is slaughtered, Doc Ardan barely survives. Unable to do much more than crawl after he regains consciousness, he begins to do so and as night falls and the freezing cold begins to ravage his body, another traveler happens to find him.

Days pass and a series of small adventures results in his being captured by the evil villain Doctor Natas. Doctor Natas (Satan spelled backwards) is the unmerciful ruler of the magnificent underground city, the "City Of Gold And Lepers." Stunned by the appearance of everyday objects created out of gold, seemingly an inexhaustible supply of gold, Doctor Ardan soon learns that Doctor Natas has no limits. Doc Ardan is condemned to be a prisoner forever, infected with a particularly virulent form of leprosy that requires the presence of Z- Rays, another Doctor Natas discovery, found in the city to hold it in check. If he were to leave, the lack of Z-Rays would cause a most painful death within less than 24 hours. He is to be a slave and personally assist Doctor Natas and while his accommodations and working environment may be better, he is no different than the thousands of slaves that toil under the evil Doctor Natas.

Forced to comply, Doc Ardan is revolted by the evil Doctor Natas, his brutal treatment of everyone, and his insane scheme for total world domination. Alone, he is virtually powerless, but soon he is joined by the lovely and talented Louise Ducharme. They hatch a plan to save themselves, the slaves, and the world and in so doing, defeat Doctor Natas.

This is a fast, fun read and a highlight of French pulp fiction. Much like the recent release of "Doctor Omega," also by this same publisher, this novel features some illustrations from the original novel, some social commentary, and a great storyline with interesting characters on a grand adventure. They simply don't write books like this anymore, which is a great pity. It succeeds on all levels very well and is very worthy of a place on your bookshelf.

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October 28, 2004 in Adventure | Permalink

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