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Bionic Review: Cyborg IV by Martin Caidin (1975)

Posted in Bionic Man, books, Six Million Dollar Man, TV shows with tags , , , , , , on March 4, 2013 by Paxton

Bionic Review

SMDM Book

Martin Caidin wrote his fourth and final Steve Austin novel in 1975. It was called Cyborg IV.

Cyborg IV 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.

Bionic Reviews: Cyborg #3 – High Crystal by Martin Caidin (1974)

Posted in Bionic Man, books, pop culture, Six Million Dollar Man, TV shows with tags , , , , , , , on September 27, 2012 by Paxton

Bionic Review

SMDM Book

The third book in Martin Caidin’s Cyborg series starring Steve Austin is Cyborg #3: High Crystal. It was published in hardback in 1974.

High Crystal hardback High Crystal US pb

The story for this book has it’s origins in another popular book from the early 70s called Chariots of the Gods, which I read many years ago. Essentially, Chariots involves an investigation of ancient civilizations that display a certain “technology” they had no way of obtaining.  And the theory of how these early civilizations got that technology was…aliens.  Yes, that book is a little ridiculous.  The situations it investigates are very real, but the theories used to explain the situations are “out there”.  But High Crystal takes the ancient civilization and their access to “high technology” and uses it to form an interesting mystery.  Honestly, based on the fact that this book had it’s roots in Chariots of the Gods and revolved around what seemed to be a “magic energy crystal”, I was not looking forward to reading this book.  It sounded straight up 70s and Bohemian.  Not exactly what I was looking for in a Six Million Dollar Man book.  But due to my current obsession with all things bionic, I read the book anyway.

High Crystal UK pb

The story begins with a spy plane being downed in the mountains of Peru. The one surviving member of the crew discovers a man-made roadway traveling through the mountains where no civilization currently exists, or any civilization has existed in thousands of years.  So, when he returns to his superiors, they are obviously interested in what’s going on.  Steve joins a group of scientists and soldiers on a mission to discover the road and find out where it came from and where it leads.  Along the way they discover that a criminal organization will do anything to keep the discovery to themselves.

I was surprised how much better this book is than Operation Nuke.  There are still some problems with Caidin’s overly descriptive writing, which is odd considering his books are usually sub-200 pages.  But the feel of this book was fun and much more energetic than the last book.  This book’s events had the historical roadtrip feel of something like Matthew Reilly’s 7 Deadly Wonders or even Raiders of the Lost Ark.  And there is lots of bionic action by Steve Austin.  Since they are trudging through the Peruvian jungles, there are plenty of places for Steve to methodically chop through underbrush or stare down a cougar (yes, that actually happened).  And it helped that Steve and his group were being chased by the criminal organization throughout their trip which gives you the “ticking clock” suspense that was lacking in the second book.  Once they discover what is at the end of the road, it isn’t disappointing.  And the group seems to barely escape whatever happens to them.  The book even leaves a sort of “not quite finished” ending you expect from a story like this.  So this was a MUCH better read than the last book and it felt like it could have been a later season episode of the series.  However, unfortunately, this book was not adapted into an episode of the TV series.  There were some elements like the ancient civilizations that made it into the third Six Million Dollar Man TV movie, Solid Gold Kidnapping, but it was just one small element and none of the rest of the story made it.  It’s a shame, this would have been a good episode (or TV movie).

There’s only one more book left in the original Caidin Cyborg novels, Cyborg IV.  I look forward to reading it.  It sounds like it could be amazing.

Bionic Reviews: Cyborg #2 – Operation Nuke by Martin Caidin (1973)

Posted in Bionic Man, books, Six Million Dollar Man, TV shows with tags , , , , , , , on August 27, 2012 by Paxton

Bionic Review
SMDM Book

This is 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.

One year after Cyborg, in 1973, Caidin released his followup Steve Austin novel, Operation Nuke.

Cyborg 2 Cyborg #2

The original hardcover release is on the left.  At this point, the original book was being adapted into the first The Six Million Dollar Man TV movie. As you can see, the paperback cover for this book on the right follows the same design as the later cover for Cyborg with Lee Major’s face and the mention of the TV show at the top.  By the time this book hit paperback, The Six Million Dollar Man had three TV movies and was beginning its regular season run.

Cyborg 2 Operation Nuke

This is a good 70s “spy novel” but it’s not a great Bionic Man (or Cyborg) novel.  Literally, Steve Austin doesn’t use any of his superhuman bionic abilities until like page 135 (of 175 pages).  And he doesn’t use them again after that either.  Also, at the beginning of the novel, when he’s getting his assignment, he is asked how much he knows about nuclear devices.  Steve says that he had to actually build a nuclear device for one of his instructional classes with the military.  This is very convenient considering the plot.  And for something he did so long ago, the book makes Steve out to be a nuclear physicist with intimate knowledge of the inner workings of all nuclear bombs.  That got old after a while.

Steve Austin spends most of this book infiltrating a criminal military organization in order to find out who is the leader and where they are getting their nuclear weapons.  A task that doesn’t require the use of any bionic limbs.  He finally uses his bionics at the end of the book when he has to carry a nuclear device from one room to another and he manages to disarm that device despite not ever seeing the insides or how it was built.

So, this was a less than satisfactory story if you are coming in expecting bionic action like the first novel.  Even for a regular 70s spy novel it leaves a little something to be desired.  Another thing that makes it tough to read is Caidin’s writing style.  Caidin tends to describe things a lot.  He may start off a chapter or section of a chapter by talking about certain objects or the surrounding environment and it’ll take a page and a half before people start talking or some action pertaining to the story happens.  It causes the reader to “skip ahead” a bit to get things moving.  So, all in all, this was a very disappointing book.  Hopefully the next book will deliver more bionic goodness.

Bionic Reviews: Cyborg by Martin Caidin (1972)

Posted in Bionic Man, books, pop culture, reviews, Six Million Dollar Man, TV shows with tags , , , , , , , on June 21, 2012 by Paxton

Bionic Review
SMDM Book

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).

Cyborg #1a Cyborg #1b

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.

Cyborg UK cover Cyborg novel

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.