Walter Karig’s varied career gave him the experiences and skills necessary to write and illustrate this entertaining, bitingly satirical novel. He studied at the New York School of Fine and Applied Arts, served in the Foreign Legion and the Polish Free Army, and then worked at the Newark Evening News as manager of its Washington bureau. During his time there (1921-1942), he wrote Nancy Drew and X-Bar-X juvenile mysteries; furthermore, he was a successful ghostwriter for politicians. When the United States entered World War II, Karig joined the Navy and worked in its public relations department. He remained in the Navy after the war as special chief deputy of information.
Zotz! is Karig’s only fantasy novel; his other books are primarily Americana or detailed military accounts of World War II. Although it is not typical of Karig’s work, Zotz! provides examples of his political attitudes and changing views on war. Karig writes fantasy not for its own sake or in response to a need in the genre; he uses it as a medium for political satire and a warning of the effects of paranoia. Jones suspects everyone of spying on him, and the other characters are equally suspicious of one another.
Although the book appeared some time before the Cold War, Karig hints at a future conflict with Russia, and his characters clearly show fear of Communism. Virginia is automatically suspected of being a Communist simply because of her strange interests. Karig writes himself into the tale as a sympathetic naval officer who becomes convinced of Jones’s potential as a weapon. Zotz! was made into a film in 1962. The time of plot was brought up to the 1960’s, and what were anti-Communist hints in the novel became the film’s major plot. It portrays the professor being chased by Russians who want the medallion for themselves.
It is difficult to place Zotz! in a specific category. The tale uses a theme common in almost every genre: a hero whose power is a mixed blessing, separating him from others. The hero may have allies, but ultimately he is left alone. A...
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