Charles Fort Never Mentioned Wombats
by Gene DeWeese and Robert Coulson
Doubleday science fiction, 1977
Wombats is a short science fiction novel, the sequel to the hard-to-find Now You See It/Him/Them; it is probably better to read them in order, but most people don't. I didn't. There's a good chance you won't either, as only Wombats has the advantage of being available for free on the Internet Archive.
Joe Karns is a lightning rod for weirdness -- a rather unwilling lightning rod, but it's not the worst problem a reporter could have. Unfortunately for his career, most of the weird things that happen to him are too weird to write about; for example, one day, a wombat spontaneously materializes on his desk. Thankfully, a few moments later it disappears again.
Then his boss tells him that he is getting his first ever travel assignment, to Australia. In exactly the sort of coincidence that Joe finds bodes ill for his future comfort and sanity, he meets a couple of his old friends at the airport, also heading off to Australia on unrelated business (a science fiction convention), and they share the flight over to Sydney. Shortly after arrival, they are abducted by a friendly Australian, the Australian is abducted by aliens, and they find themselves in possession of an alien artifact of uncertain power and abilities. It appears that Australia -- and presumably, the entire Earth -- is under threat from alien invaders, and only they can save it. They make the grave mistake of trying to convince a convention of SF fans about all this, and are promptly derided, and spend the rest of the adventure swarmed with a mob of nerds who are motivated entirely by the desire to explain how their dilemma is trite, hackneyed, scientifically inaccurate, and downright childish.
This is absolutely a science fiction novel, but it is also heavily distracted by being about a SF convention, and like many similar books, the authors spend a lot of time reminding the readers of how much fun -- and hassle -- these conventions are. The science fiction in question is also largely ESP and related powers, making this the softest of SF.
Gene DeWeese and Robert Coulson are both -- to put it bluntly -- hack writers that will write all kids of random crap (Star Trek novelizations, for example); this books is sort of more of the same. It's not badly plotted or written, but it's also nothing too special. It's a light, competently done bit of comic science fiction that deserved to be just as popular as any of Craig Shaw Gardner's or John DeChance's novels -- however popular you believe that should be -- but that slipped through the cracks. It's a nice, light, quick light read... and just generally okay.