Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Book review: The first book I ever read.

Time for a book review. But not just any book review. Today I'm reviewing the very first hardcover book I ever read as a young 'un back in the wilds of Wisconsin. I know it was the very first one I ever read, and I even have a copy of it right now.

I got no idea where I got it from or who gave it to me. Those bits of information are lost to the winds of time. I'm thinking it probably helped warp my personality almost as much as comic books did. This noteworthy tome, this pioneering work of literature that was the premiere written software that was loaded into my fragile li'l mind, was the Little Golden Book of Fireball XL-5.

This monumental tome was written by Barbara Shook Hazen, who I discovered decades later as having written over 70 children's books and a hair less than a dozen for adult folks. The colorful, eye-catching artwork was created by Hawley Pratt and Al White. Hawley Pratt worked with Warner Brothers during the heydays of their cartoon unit, and was the co-creator of the Pink Panther. He also directed one of my favorite cartoon series of all time, The Super 6.

So it had that going for it before I even opened the book. Not that I was even remotely aware of such stellar achievements back then, of course.

For those who aren't familiar, Fireball XL-5 was a television show that originated in Britain and was syndicated in the states in the mid-sixties. It was done in "Super-Marionation," which basically meant it was acted out by puppets, much like Supercar and the perhaps much better known Thunderbirds. The show's creator, Gerry Anderson, went on to have a major hand in the sci-fi classic Space 1999.

The spaceship, Fireball XL-5 was part of Earth's Space Corps, which was headed by Commander Zero. The Fireball's crew consisted of the puppetly-dashing Colonel Steve Zodiac, the marionettingly beautiful Venus, who was both nurse and navigator, and Robert the Robot, a see-through mechanical man who was Zodiac's co-pilot. The TV series also featured the somewhat addled Professor Metric on board, but he didn't make an appearance in this book. Also on board was Commander Zero's son, Jonathan and his pet Lazoon named Zoonie (who was a kind of primate).|

The Fireball investigated a strange uncharted moon that was covered by both precious gems and man-sized space serpents that spit out said gems. Naturally, Jonathan and Zoonie played a big part in saving the crew from the space serpents, luring them to the cold side of the planet where they froze.  Everyone got themselves a bag o' gems to sell to help finance a "Space School for Earth boys and girls," and the Fireball led the biggest parade Space City had ever had.

Now what more could a kid ask for? Shiny spaceship, monkey, big robot, space lizards, parade. That's like twenty Twilight novels of action right there.

Most people know I will try reading any genre once, from pulp adventures to historical romance, from hard-boiled detectives to western dime novels. But I always come back to my favorite: Science fiction. And after I remembered this book a few years ago, I wonder if this is what started my love of straight (and occasionally bent and warped out of recognition) science fiction.

I would not doubt it in the slightest.