The Nyctalope on Mars 1: The Mystery of the Fifteen
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THE NYCTALOPE ON MARS 1: THE MYSTERY OF THE FIFTEEN
by Jean de La Hire
adapted by Brian Stableford
cover by Denis Rodier
Yvonne and I are on the planet Mars. Thirteen other young women are prisoners, like us. I am not mad. Don't doubt me and come to save me. Your desperate daughters are appealing to you. Xavière de Ciserat.
In violation of my oath to the XV, obedient to Mademoiselle de Ciserat's prayer, I certify the exactitude of the above information. Koynos, Commander-in-Chief of the XV.
Leo Saint-Clair, alias the Nyctalope, was created in 1911 by Jean de La Hire, one of France's most prolific serial writers. Gifted with night vision, hypnotic powers and an artificial heart, Saint-Clair is a fearless hero who battles colorful super-villains. His adventures, which spanned 30 years, created a template that was later adopted by such pulp heroes as Doc Savage (1933), before providing the core mythology of American comic books.
In The Nyctalope on Mars (1911), Leo faces the megalomaniacal Oxus, master of the secret society of the Fifteen, who is plotting to conquer Earth from his secret base on Mars. After defeating the Fifteen, the Nyctalope must then face an ever more fearsome foe: H. G. Wells' Martians.
The Nyctalope on Mars predicted the course that popular fiction was to follow in the next 50 years. Brian Stableford.
Contents: Le Mystere des XV (1911) by Jean de La Hire; Introduction, Afterword and Notes by Brian Stableford.
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The book plays interestingly with other texts, for example establishing early on that Wells was a historian rather than a novelist (though why France was apparently unaffected by the Martian invasion is left unclear), foreshadowing similar experiments by Philip Jose Farmer, Alan Moore, and so on. Similarly the Nyctalope himself anticipates the pulp heroes that would follow: Doc Savage, Flash Gordon, and so on, all the way through to Tom Strong.
But for me this wasn’t just of historical interest. It was exciting, amusing, eccentric and quite unique, and I’d recommend it highly to anyone who prizes those qualities.