THE MAN WHO VANISHED INTO SPACE
First Published on 3rd November 1963 - 160 pages
This book starts with a short forward that refers to the fact that man has now launched into space and gives a run down of the characters involved in the book and lists the previous nine book titles. The book then commences with our heroes already on board the Tavona heading for Mars. Rex sees a spark of light and investigating they find the body of a man floating in space! The corpse is wearing a kilt, which Professor Brane recognises at Macpherson Tartan and the body is recovered into the spacecraft by Toby. In the dead man's cap is the initial 'I' (which they surmise stands for 'Ian') and the makers name, Grant of Inverness. The body is taken to the moon and buried under a rock cairn. Returning to Earth to investigate, they start with the makers of the cap. Here they meet Colonel Sir Murdo Tulloch who recognises the cap as belonging to Ian Macpherson, one of his gamekeepers who has mysteriously disappeared. The Colonel tells our heroes that two men have disappeared in total, the other man is Donald Graham, his head keeper. The Professor says he picked up the cap that morning on the heather near his house (which was something he literally did so as not to have to lie about it's true origins). Apparently Macpherson had been fairly ill when he disappeared. Returning to Glensalich Castle, the Professor concludes that Graham must have been abducted and resolves to try to find him. They return to the Tavona and discuss matters with Vargo. Vargo is convinced that no spacecraft from his planet would have been to Earth without him hearing of it. They decide to go to Mars to ask the Captains of the Remote Survey Fleet if they have heard of any rumours of a man being picked up from Earth. On Mars, Rex meets with his girlfriend Morino again. A space captain named Grantos gives our heroes a small clue. Not long ago, on a trip to the Fourth Region, he had seen a space captain from the planet Vallon called Molo, on a search for a missing spacecraft, and he was eating something that he referred to as a "jammysandwich". Travelling to Vallon, our heroes stop off at a nearby planet, which appears to be uninhabited. They are intrigued to find what looks like a track. Here they find a tin with the words "Player's Navy Cut" on. Next they find an old abandoned spacecraft. They think it may be the one that the space captain from Vallon was searching for. They are then shocked to find a Zulu called Ebutu from M'Bula in Tanganyika. He too has been kidnapped from Earth. After a tremendous downpour, the ground outside the spaceship turns into a quagmire and they have to use their ingenuity to get out. Our heroes spend an uncomfortable night in the Tavona as they hear the sounds of huge and strange alien creatures outside. The following morning the tracks made by the mysterious monsters of the night are easily found. There is a broad path of crushed vegetation. The tracks are followed until they reach a hole the size of a railway tunnel. In the tunnel is a vast amount of water and the Professor suspects that it may be an underground lake or even a sea. Returning to the Tavona, a spaceship is sighted in the sky and lands. Two strangely dressed men get out. Vargo and Gator go to talk to the strange new arrivals as they speak many languages. One of the new arrivals is called Molo and he speaks English with a slight Scottish accent. He has been taught English by a human on Vallon. Apparently, the two Scots had agreed to go in a Vallon spaceship but Macpherson had died of pneumonia following influenza. His body had been put overboard with some haste, as it was feared the illness might be infectious. Graham was then taken to Vallon alone and told that if he would teach English to the spaceship commanders he would be taken home again. The promise was kept and a ship has been sent to take Graham home, but that ship is now itself listed as missing! The scientists of Vallon wanted some inhabitants of Earth to find out about all the activity on the planet. After another severe storm on the planet, it is discovered that the Tavona is stuck in the mud. Freeing itself, our heroes then help the crew of the Vallon ship, which is also stuck in the mud. They had been searching for Graham's lost ship and had searched extensively. However, they had not been to the planet of Mintona due to the savage nature and cannibalism of the inhabitants. Once the Vallon ship is freed from the mud, the Tavona flies onto Mintona. It is on here that the wreckage of Graham's missing spacecraft is found. Graham himself is eventually found alive because the inhabitants think he is a god. Graham is rescued and surprises everyone by stating that he wants to return to Vallon where he has a wife. Apparently, he was only going back to Earth to collect some of his personal possessions. Graham is returned to Vallon and our heroes then return to Mars. Rex is able to spend a couple of days with Morino before they return to Earth and Ebutu is returned to his part of Africa. The Tavona then returns to Scotland and the Professor's home, Glensalich Castle. The last few words of the book are "there was no place like home".
This was the last of the science fiction stories written by W. E. Johns and indeed, the last 'non-Biggles' book he ever wrote. From now until his death he would only write Biggles books.
There are no story illustrations in this book
The Man Who Vanished Into Space
Subtitle - Another adventure of the spacecraft Tavona in the Great Unknown
Publication Details - published by Hodder and Stoughton
Click on the Frontispiece to enlarge it
Original first edition boards