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Welcome!! My name is Paul Lappen. I am in my early 50s, single, and live in Connecticut USA. This blog will consist of book reviews, written by me, on a wide variety of subjects. I specialize, as much as possible, in small press and self-published books, to give them whatever tiny bit of publicity help that I can. Other than that, I am willing to review nearly any genre, except poetry, romance, elementary-school children's books and (really bloody) horror.

I have another 800 reviews at my archive blog: http://www.deadtreesreviewarchive.blogspot.com (please visit).

I post my reviews to:

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I am always looking for more places to post my reviews.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The Heads of Cerberus

The Heads of Cerberus, Francis Stevens, Fantastic Books, 2013

This is a rarely reprinted science fiction novel of the early 20th Century about three people suddenly sent on a wild adventure.

Set in Philadelphia of the early 20th Century, Robert Drayton is a young lawyer in ethical trouble. Terry Trenmore is a big, strapping Irishman, full of muscles, but perhaps a bit lacking in brains. Viola is Terry's teenage sister. Through a busted burglary and a bit of intrigue, they are sitting at a table with a mysterious glass bottle in front of them. The sterling silver stopper is shaped into Cerberus, the mythological three-headed dog. It contains "the dust of Purgatory," said to have been collected by Dante himself during his time there. Terry touches the dust, and immediately disappears. Viola and Robert soon follow.

They find themselves in a strangely changed Philadelphia. After just a few minutes on the street, they are arrested for not wearing their number in public. It turns out that they have traveled 200 years into the future, to a dystopian Philadelphia, where everyone has numbers instead of names. They are taken to the Hall of Justice, where the punishment for breaking the law is to be thrown into the Pit of the Past. It is a large pit that is home to a carnivorous creature with steel spikes for teeth. Instead, the three are entered into "democratic" civil service exams, to become part of the ruling class.Actually, the contests are fixed, and the losers die. The ruling class does have names, like Cleverest, Swiftest and Loveliest; they also have total control over the population. History has been suppressed, and literacy is forbidden. Drayton gets in big trouble simply for asking for a newspaper. In 22nd Century Philadelphia, William Penn is worshiped as an angry god, and the Liberty Bell has been turned into a disintegrator machine. Can the three return home? Do they survive this dystopian nightmare?

This novel should be much more available than it has been. It does stereotype its characters, but the author stays away from insulting stereotypes. It certainly works as a dystopian novel, and is very much worth the reader's time.

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