I'm trying to remember the author and title of a science fiction story I read decades ago (mid-70's to early-80's). I want to say it's a golden age short story (maybe a novel) but I may be wrong on this point.

The story follows a man who, waking up from a long bout of unconsciousness, finds that he has been transformed into a being of living metallic components. The streets outside his apartment are deserted and look like they have been that way for a very long time. It was a "present" day story with the abandoned cars cluttering the street. I can remember an early scene description with a great deal of random, blown litter collecting against/on the cars and the main character wondering how long he had been unconscious.

He finds corpses, some of people who seem to have changed completely to solid metal and some who did not complete the change and died half-metal, half-flesh. He surmises that he was exposed to the changing factor (radiation?) at just the perfect level. His shielding apartment walls plus an open window(?) letting exactly the right amount of radiation in for the proper amount of time. He begins to explore his surroundings. I seem to remember it being a very large, cosmopolitan city.

...and that's were my memory begins to fade.

I think that he finds others like himself and also some people who were shielded enough to still be fully human, but that might be me stirring a different story into the mix.

Any help would be greatly appreciated.

(If anyone is wondering what triggered this search: several weeks ago, I was discussing a recent meteor shower with a co-worker and the radio began to play Iron Man by Black Sabbath. Ever since, I haven't been able to get the story out of my head. Funny how the mind works.)

1 Answer 1


That's Invaders from Rigel aka The Onslaught from Rigel by Fletcher Pratt. The Project Gutenberg etext is based on the original 1932 magazine story, and may be shorter than the book version (maybe this one) that you read.

The following review is from Science-Fiction: The Gernsback Years by Everett F. Bleiler (ISFDB, Wikipedia):

Novel. * Time: 1946 on. Place: New York City, New Jersey, Chicago, and a few other places. * The story is concerned with a very peculiar invasion from Rigel, the oddity being that an emanation of "life force" from the invaders' spaceship has turned the population of the Western hemisphere into metal. Most victims become statuary, but a few men and women (whom the invaders plan to use as slaves) are beings of living metal. * The story is told through two groups of the living metal survivors: first, several people in New York City, including Benjamin Franklin Ruby [. . .] and, second, air pilot Herbert Sherman and exotic dancer Marta Lami, both captured by the invaders. At first the survivors attribute the change to a great comet that approached Earth; actually, the "comet" was the spaceship from Rigel. * Ruby and his few comrades awaken in a typical sleeper-awakes situation in New York, to find themselves transformed; they no longer eat, but receive energy from electric shocks and have to lubricate themselves with oil. Almost immediately they run into difficulty from large bird-like creatures who have airplane forewings, flapping rear wings, and two legs. The birds, who are called dodos, carry light-bombs of great power and endeavor to capture the metal survivors. The metal-men fight off the birds, who are vulnerable, but the humans are usually in a state of siege. * A new factor enters when an Australian warship enters the local waters. The Australians, who received only a small quantity of the mysterious radiation, were not turned to metal, but the iron in their blood has been changed to cobalt, so that they are blue-skinned. Australia, they inform the Americans, has not suffered so badly as North America, although bombing raids by the birds are not unknown. * The invaders are entrenched, with enormous underground fortifications in the New Jersey area. After repeated minor engagements, the Australians take the offensive against the invaders. With tanks and mobile cannon, the combined Australian and American forces attack, but with limited success. Planes from the Australian warships hold the air against the weird dodos, but on the ground the invader tanks seem invulnerable. * The story shifts to Sherman and Marta. Sherman awakens as a metal-man, and in a short time is captured by the invaders, who might be briefly described as humanized small elephants. The science of the invaders, who are Lassans from a planet of Rigel, is on the whole much superior to human, but, as Sherman learns, they have less knowledge of explosives. In captivity in the Lassan underground fortress, Sherman serves as an involuntary informant via a thought helmet; as consolation he also learns much about the invaders. The Lassans are an aggressive culture that believes it has a Spencerian right to destroy or utilize "lower" lifeforms. Lassan expeditions have already spread death and destruction turough many planetary systems. * Sherman escapes with important information that leads to the Lassan defeat and destruction. The final explosion of the Lassan life-force turns the metal men back to human form.

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    Whoop! It's been identified. Now to get this on my Kindle and out of my nagging brain pan. Jul 2, 2014 at 6:37

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