by L. Ron Hubbard
Produced by Galaxy Audio (2008)
approx 2.5 hours
Galaxy Audio is getting ready to release some new collections of audiobooks from L. Ron Hubbard’s Pulp Fiction writings of the mid-20th Century and before I get to them I realized there was one release I’ve missed. You see, since 2008 Galaxy Press and Galaxy Audio have been gathering all of the stories Hubbard wrote during the hey day of pulp fiction and have been releasing the New York Times bestselling author’s writings in their own new pulp magazine forms. The paperbacks have the feel of the old pulps (but are a little more sturdy), and the audio book forms, well let’s just say, Galaxy Audio has created the new format of Audio Pulps. The audiobook releases are all around 2 hours in length and while some may contain one story there are some that have 2 or 3 short stories. This one is only one story but, as are all of them, it is a fun and exciting adventure story.
The way Galaxy Audio has created this Audio Pulp format is by casting multiple talented people to play the parts in the story and then incorporating excellent sound effects and perfect music between chapters. The final products sound like old time radio with over the top acting for the over the top characters created by Hubbard. The voice work alone makes these recordings fun to hear.
As for the stories, well I will have to say there is a bit of a pulp fiction formula to them, but Hubbard uses that formula perfectly. I had originally thought this was just a Hubbard gimmick, but following the success of Galaxy Audio/Galaxy Press re-releasing the old pulp-fiction stories other publishers have begun releasing other stories from the pulp-fiction days, and it seems that the formula is a pulp-fiction formula and Hubbard just seemed to master it. That formula? Well, you gotta have a hero, a sidekick (preferably with some strange quirk) a dame and an impossible mission or crime to solve, then throw in some pretty enemies that are impossible to overcome and have the good guys win. It works and let me tell you, it is extremely fun.
This story, “Orders Is Orders” was originally published in the December, 1937 issue of “Argosy weekly” and tells the story of just such formulaic characters. Two marines, Gunnery Sergeant James Mitchell and Private First Class “Tuffy” Spivits, and a girl, a fan dancer trying to escape the war-torn area, dodge bullets on a 200-mile trek through embattled China to bring serum and gold to the American consulate, an isolated island of safety in a sea of dead and dying.
Japan and China are battling it out and caught in the middle, in the Chinese city of Shunkien, is the American Consulate. The American refugees cannot escape due to the war being waged and the Asiatic form of cholera is threatening unless they can get the serum on time. Sgt, Mitchell is just the man to do it, but he has one weakness, liquor, if he can stay away from it he can stay clear headed enough to get the job done. One of the many things that make Mitchell the perfect candidate is that he was raised in the area. Mitchell’s father is a missionary and he was raised there until a falling out caused him to leave abruptly, he’s been on his own ever-since.
Mitchell and Spivets come to the aid of a fan dancer who is trying to escape, but they end up taking her the wrong way when they commandeer her car in order to make the mission succeed. Along the way they come to where Mitchell’s father has set up is mission and find it nearly in ruins due to the war. Since their last car broke down they have to commandeer one and reluctantly Mitchell’s father joins in. With constant battles going on they strange landing party fight all odds to get to Shunkien on time without getting the U.S. involved in this war.
It may be the old Pulp-Fiction formula, but L. Ron Hubbard could write the action that keeps you hooked until the very end.