In Retro-Review: Reality Forbidden

A fantastic premise and outstanding action that fumbles in its finale.

Realty Forbidden by Philip E. High 

Published by Ace Books, Inc., 1967. Paperback of 151 pages at 50¢. 

Note: This is an Ace Double book. It can be flipped over for an additional story, which is Contraband From Otherspace by A. Bertram Chandler.

The cover: Jack Gaughan is the artist on this frontpiece which features a bizarre gigantic robot with a giant red eye at its top. Two missiles or ships sweep from its back right across its front to its left. Three figures in a fog are at the bottom right, with one looking to be a knight, complete with shield, hat, and raised sword. To the left is a similar knight on horseback with a pike held ready. An odd cover that isn’t how I pictured the reveal at the end of this tale. Overall grade: B- 

The premise: From the first page, “If wishes would only come true…how often has every human being thought that? How wonderful life would be if only we could have everything we ever dreamed of! But the man who invented the dream-machine turned out to be the worst enemy humanity ever encountered! The dream became as real as the reality — and yet remained a figment of the imagination. And thereby the very foundation of civilization was undermined. Why strive — when you could get it all without effort? REALITY FORBIDDEN is the unusual novel of what came afterwards. Of the world of which only the most rigid of terror kept the cities standing, and of the man who dared to escape that world, to find the last place on Earth where dreaming was not prohibited, and where one could not only have one’s cake, but eat it as well!” The only specific teased is a dream-machine which could upend civilization. It’s an interesting idea, but there’s not much to grab. Overall grade: C+

The characters: David Gilliad is an Englishman who tries to sneak into Canada with Kendal. They are discovered and captured by the local government, headed by Commissioner Osterly. Kendal doesn’t survive capture, for reasons I’ll not reveal. Gilliad states he was chosen for this mission because he chose the wrong candidate in the last election and he was faced with being killed or spying on the Canadians. He is deathly afraid of the wish machines that the Canadians have figured out how to lose without causing their society to fall apart. As Osterly helps to have Gilliad lean the machines aren’t harmful, David learns things about himself that will change the world. I really liked how Gilliad was constantly evolving, starting as a frightened man and ultimately becoming so much more. His path reminded me of Neo from The Matrix. Osterly is a good example of the status quo in Canada and how he, and his allies, want mankind to be better than they currently are. There is only one woman to speak of in the novel and I couldn’t find her first name, as it’s only mentioned once. Miss Stour doesn’t do much, and is never referred to by name, only as she or her. This was disappointing. The villain of the book is a human who’s introduced late and comes off as very weak. The MacGuffin that serves as the source of all the book’s woes was extremely disappointing; it was an easy way out. I loved the protagonists, but was very let down by the antagonists. Overall grade: C+

The settings: Canada in an undisclosed future is the main setting and it’s described as any modern day city in the Great White North would look today. There are secret places where the government works and much destruction does occur, but a big city is the primary location. There are major cities in the United States that are visited in the climax. All the settings resemble those of the modern world. Overall grade: B

The action: I was riveted to the action and ideas in the first three-quarters of this novel. I loved the threat and the blessings of the wish machines, how groups sought to kill Gilliad, how he fought back, and when cities attacked one another. It was incredible and as I turned pages all I could think of was how awesome a film of this book would be. However, once the villain and the MacGuffin are revealed I was let down. The book’s action took a dive. Overall grade: B

The conclusion: Given how strong the beginning and middle is, the ending is anti-climatic. The solution to the world’s woes is entirely too easy and came off as if the writer was unable to write himself out of a corner. Overall grade: C-

The final line: A fantastic premise and outstanding action that fumbles in its finale. I was madly in love with this book until the two antagonists were revealed in the last quarter. I would recommend this to anyone looking for an unusual premise and how the action, especially war, is carried out. Just be aware that the conclusion is lacking. Overall grade: C+

To see the cover visit my Instagram account: patrickhayesscifipulse

To read the review for the flip book go to https://scifipulse.net/in-retro-review-contraband-from-otherspace/

Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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