Best 1931 Adventures (4)

By: Joshua Glenn
April 26, 2016

One in a series of 10 posts identifying Josh Glenn’s favorite 1931 adventure novels. Happy 85th anniversary!



John Taine’s Seeds of Life.

Neils Bork, a pathetic lab technician, attempts suicide via X-rays… and is transformed into a supermind in the body of a swarthy Adonis. He renames himself De Soto: “De Soto was but a partial, accidental anticipation of the more sophisticated and yet more natural race into which time and the secular flux of chance are slowly transforming our kind.” He invents wireless energy transfer devices, secretly planning to use them to bombard humankind with “dysgenic” rays that will devolve unborn children. Then De Soto’s own evolution reverses itself: “I never used to think [i.e., while he was still a super-genius], but saw the inevitable consequences of any pattern of circumstances — no matter how complicated — immediately, like a photograph of the future.” He repents of his superioristic ways, and is killed by his own reptilian offspring!

Fun fact: John Taine was the pseudonym of noted mathematician Eric Temple Bell. The novella, which may have influenced everything from Flowers for Algernon to Spider-Man, was serialized in Amazing Stories.


Let me know if I’ve missed any 1931 adventures that you particularly admire.