Assassins From Tomorrow, by Peter Heath
No month stated, 1967 Magnum/Lancer Books
The second volume of The Mind Brothers is an interesting departure from the first volume; whereas that one was heavy on the psychedelic sci-fi, this one is more of a streamlined pulp tale. Also of note is that the plot concerns the mysteries surrounding the JFK assassination, which is pretty unusual given that the novel was published just a few years after it happened – not to mention a year before the RFK assassination.
However, Assassins From Tomorrow ultimately has nothing much at all to do with the various JFK conspiracy theories; in this novel you will read nothing of multiple Oswalds or grassy knoll tramps, let alone any umbrella men. The Kennedy assassination serves as the impetus of the events, sort of, but the book instead becomes more of an adventure thing with vague sci-fi trappings before finally dispensing with the Kennedy stuff in the very final pages, and arbitrarily at that. So despite what the cover and back copy imply, the novel is not in any way a conspiracy theory sort of deal.
Anyway, the spine of Assassins From Tomorrow is labelled with a “1,” as if implying that this is the start of the series and not the second volume of it. What’s interesting is that “the Mind Brothers” don’t play nearly as great a part in this book as they did in that first book. Rather, Assassins From Tomorrow is more of a solo piece, focusing for the most part just on Jason Starr, blond-haired super-genius and sometimes CIA spook who now, two years after the first book, runs Consultants Unlimited in Washington, D.C.
Heath doesn’t really pick up many threads from the first book, and to tell the truth he acts like most of it never happened! There’s hardly any recapping or scene re-setting; the book comes off as the start of just another ‘60s spy series, with as mentioned only slight sci-fi trappings. This comes mostly due to Jason’s “mind brother” (the phrase never actually used in this book), Adam Cyber, a bald clone of Jason (his twin-like similarity to Jason also ignored this time), who as we’ll recall is from 50,000 years in the future and is now stuck in the past. Not that any of this is really mentioned here; only Cyber’s future history is dispensed with in a paragraph or two.
One other thing has changed since The Mind Brothers; I think Heath started to watch Star Trek. For Cyber has become Mr. Spock in all but name; you can’t help but hear Leonard Nimoy delivering every single one of his lines. Like Spock Cyber is now an ultra-logical sort-of human who acts as the straight man to Jason’s Kirk. But here’s the big problem – Heath basically removes Cyber from the novel, and we hardly get to see him. Seriously, he’s like in twenty pages of the book. He disappears around page 80, abducted by the villains of the piece, and we don’t see him again.
Heath introduces a new character to the series, 16 year-old Mark Brown, a sort of hippie-type smart guy who is the son of a scientist friend of Jason’s and is currently on his way to Dallas to get to the bottom of the JFK thing. Instead Mark runs into a weird group in a bar, including a muscle-bound dude and a pretty lady who identifies herself as Consuelo Blake, and then he’s beaten up when he asks about JFK and finds himself in lockup. Escaping the prison detail he’s been put on, Mark manages to get in touch with Jason, whom his father had told him is a person to trust when in need – Mark’s dad being out of touch.
Jason lives in wealth in D.C. and has a special wall in his office that’s really a goofy sci-fi sort of magic hidden entrance that leads him into Cyber’s secret area. There the two decide to…I don’t know, do something. Heath is not very good at connecting various plot threads, though he is a very competent pulp writer. We also learn here that Jason has gotten a girlfriend, Hillary, but she is absent for the entire novel, and when we do see her she’s under mind control and doesn’t even recognize Jason. But anyway Jason and Cyber team up with Mark to find out what’s going on – Consuela Blake gave Mark some coordinates before she was taken away that night, and Jason realizes they are positions for an orbiting satellite.
Heath also injects more action into this one, getting away from the world-building (and character-building) of the previous volume. But again it’s all just Jason, like when he almost casually kills a few thugs with his martial arts skills and when he later escapes a miniature thermonuclear missile that’s been fired at him. We do get some of the sci-fi stuff of the last one, mostly through Jason’s science geekery – not to mention Cyber’s post-human brilliance, and also Mark I forgot to mention is a budding scientist himself. Jason even has a LearJet that’s got this fancy future-tech computer in it, but after building it up so much Heath just drops it, having Jason take the plane apart and cannibalize its parts.
The thermonuke was fired from Mexico, and Jason, along with Mark and a pair of Mexican brothers named Mendez and Ramos, goes out into the jungle waters near Puerto Vallarta and calls down the mysterious satellite at great page expense. Inside it they find the preserved corpse of an astronaut. The satellite was for spying and was launched on the day of Kennedy’s assassination. Eventually we’ll learn that the perpetrators of this plot put in orders for this “spy in the sky” not to be called back down that fateful November day, as he’d taken photos of the JFK killing, photos that could disprove the official story, or something.
Now Jason, Cyber having been kidnapped off-page, finds himself surrounded by a Hollywood movie crew(!?), shooting a movie down here in Mexico. Meanwhile he’s gotten in combat with a remote control nuclear sub which he took down with a top secret nuke-firing handgun thing…! A blonde bimbo starlet offers herself to Jason one night, but he turns her away (no sex in the novel, by the way). And meanwhile he finds down here – none other than Hillary, his girlfriend who by the way was kidnapped too, also off-page, earlier in the book! But Hillary acts dazed and doesn’t even recognize Jason.
The novel climaxes in the ruins of Tuxtilatan, an ancient pyramid deep in the jungle. Inside Jason finds a metallic underground structure in which the villains make their home. One of them is Consuella Blake, who Jason never met but who he somehow recognizes. The sexy, evil lady reveals that she and her fellow villains are all humans from 5,000 years in the future, and to escape their nuke-ravaged hellscape they’ve decided to invade the past. This by the way was the exact same plot of the excellent fifth (and final) season of Fringe.
So yeah, we have villains from 5,000 years in the future and a co-hero who is from fifty thousand years in the future, even though he’s off page and Heath denies us the chance of seeing Cyber take on these freaks. But Heath doesn’t really elaborate on any of this, and seems unable to understand the basics of time travel fiction – if the people from Conseula’s time were using time travel to escape their reality, then how did their world evolve for another forty or so thousand years to become Cyber’s – and why didn’t they go into the future, which as described in the first book is a sort of artificial paradise that’s barren of any humans?? I mean they could’ve just moved right on in, rather than wasting resources on conquering the 20th century.
And for that matter, it’s quickly mentioned that JFK was killed because he could’ve stopped this future-invasion, somehow; other potential disruptors of the plan have also been killed. Like Cyber, who is being sent to the earth’s core “five minutes ago,” and Jason watches and does nothing as Cyber is in fact sent to the friggin earth’s core! So is he dead or what?? Heath doesn’t even bother to tell us. Oh and Mark’s also been sent somewhere, I think three years in the future or something, but Heath doesn’t bother to follow up on that plot thread either.
Instead, the finale is an overlong sequence of Jason, assisted by the deus ex machina Mendez and Ramos, taking on the future-invaders in their high-tech complex. Consuela is about to tell Jason where the other hidden time-travel places are when she’s shot dead by none other than Dr. Brown – Mark’s dad. But it’s revealed that the real Dr. Brown and Consuela herself are really dead and these people Jason is fighting are just walking automatons with the brains of the future-invaders, or something.
Anyway, it ends with Jason at least saving Hillary, who comes out of her mind control stupor in the very last sentence and thus is at least given a single line of dialog. Meanwhile Jason smokes a couple cigarettes and figures the FBI will now be after him as a “murderer.” Why? I guess because they’ll think he killed Dr. Brown, or somehow all of these events will be pegged on him, but all of it happened in Mexico, and Jason doesn’t seem to realize that the FBI has no jurisdiction there, so the finale left me plumb friggin’ confused, as did most of the rest of the book.
Only one more volume was to follow, Men Who Die Twice, and it appears to tap into the folk-rock craze of the time. I’ll get to it eventually.