Bionic Reviews: Cyborg by Martin Caidin (1972)
This is the first of an ongoing feature where I read, watch and review books, comics and TV shows featuring The Six Million Dollar Man and Bionic Woman. Click the Bionic Review banner to see the Bionic Review archive page. Click the smaller banner to see only those specific reviews.
The Six Million Dollar Man began as a 1972 super-spy novel called Cyborg by Martin Caidin. It was a classic 70s spy book but with the added fantastical elements of human biological enhancements (called bionics).
Above are two paperback covers for the book. I own both. On the left is one of the original paperback covers with no mention of The Six Million Dollar Man on the cover. On the right is a later paperback edition with not only a bolded and underlined mention of the show at the very top, but Lee Majors’ face in the lower right. The cover on the right would actually be modified and used again for the sequel novel, Cyborg 2: Operation Nuke when it hit paperback.
Cyborg would not be the first time Caidin wrote about bionics. In 1968 Caidin wrote The God Machine which dealt with the topic of bionics and artificial intelligence. Caidin would incorporate those aspects into this novel. Caidin wrote Cyborg as the first in a series. The book was picked up and adapted into the first Six Million Dollar Man TV movie in 1973. The studio made a few small changes to the character of Steve Austin for the TV show. The biggest change would be to Austin’s bionic eye. In the novel the eye is blind for Austin. However it is outfitted with a microfilm camera and a laser. Yes, he can shoot lasers out of his bionic eye, which is crazy-awesome and I wonder why they didn’t incorporate that in the show (well they did, but only in Austin’s son during one of the reunion movies). Also, the TV version of Austin is much more powerful and can run faster than the book version. They also toned down the hardcore grittyness of the spy novel for the TV series.
So, how is the book? It’s actually a pretty good 70s spy novel. It sets up the origin of Steve Austin and his accident in much the same way the TV show did. It spends a believable amount of time on the bionic surgeries as well as his rehabilitation both physically and mentally to his new bionic parts. If anything is different than the TV show it’s that you don’t get the awesome “bionic sound” whenever Steve uses his abilities and, like I said, the performance of his “bionic parts” is slightly different. Steve gets the same bionic parts in the book that he does in the show (right eye, left arm, both legs) but he also gets a steel plate in his head and a radio transmitter in one of his ribs.
There are two good missions Steve goes on in this novel. One is a “water mission” so we see Austin’s bionic enhancements helping him in the ocean. He gets to use his “critical mission” limbs that let him swim faster and and breathe underwater by hooking up his scuba breather to his leg. Pretty awesome. Steve also goes on a desert mission where he’s stranded for what seems like days. Many good uses of his bionics in this book.
So, yes, this book is pretty good. Typical 70s spy novel. It’s a bit slow in parts (as 70s novels tend to be), but intersting enough for me to keep reading. I definitely look forward to reading more about the literary Steve Austin.
Caidin wrote three sequel novels to Cyborg. All of Caidin’s Austin novels stay true to the original and do not incorporate the character elements of the TV show.
Check out other Bionic Reviews on the Bionic reviews archive page.