Bionic Review: Cyborg IV by Martin Caidin (1975)
Martin Caidin wrote his fourth and final Steve Austin novel in 1975. It was called Cyborg IV.
By this point, Caidin’s character had spun off into the famous Six Million Dollar Man TV show. However, Caidin continued his novels as if the TV show didn’t exist. The continuity within the novels did not overlap with the show. Despite this fact, this particular book was included as #6 in the Six Million Dollar Man book series. Which is confusing (is it Book #6 or Book #4?). The Six Million Dollar Man book series were paperback translations of episodes of the TV show in which authors like Mike Jahn and Jay Barbree novelized episodes like Pilot Error, Rescue of Athena One and Solid Gold Kidnapping. Caidin’s third Cyborg novel, High Crystal, was also confusingly included in this series. The first two Cyborg books were not included.
For this last novel, Caidin takes the idea of “man working in tandem with machines” to a new level. Steve is introduced to a new project within the Army in which an advanced fighter jet/spaceship is directly connected to a human pilot so that ship and man are one and the same. This setup requires that the human pilot have interface ports surgically added to his body, but since Steve already has most of that done, Oscar thinks he’s the perfect test pilot for the project.
The idea that Caidin introduces here is pretty cool. When directly connected to the ship, Steve would “feel” and “see” what happens to that ship as if it were a part of his body. Instead of having gauges and digital readouts tell him about the telemetry of the ship, it would be fed directly into his body and he’d know it just as he knows that it’s cold outside or that he’s hungry. It’s a pretty crazy idea and for some reason it immediately made me think of the Clint Eastwood movie Firefox. And the first time they test Steve and the plane, they have to dial back the connection to 30%, otherwise, Austin may lose all of his individual identity and become “one” with the ship. The way it’s written in the book is actually pretty cool.
The problem? Caidin is his own worst enemy. We spend the first 1/3-2/3 of the book learning about the project and then training Steve on the equipment. The final action of the book is really just the very first outer space flight test for the plane/cyborg hybrid. There is a small conflict with the Russians in that they are destroying US spy satellites, but other than that, the book is just training and a few test flights of the new ship. And the book essentially just ends not giving you any indication about the future of the project or where Steve will go next.
So, again, I’m a little frustrated reading these Caidin Cyborg books because the author has really good ideas but the written execution of the novel is seriously lacking. And considering the books are short, (< 200pgs) Caidin still manages to drone on WAY too long about the most mundane things. So while I’d recommend this more than Operation Nuke it’s not as good as High Crystal or the original Cybog novel.