Derai (Dumarest #02) – EC Tubb (1968)
‘Still driven by his search for Man’s fabled birthplace, Earl Dumarest accepts a commission to guard the Lady Derai, heiress to the proud House of Caldor on the feudal world of Hive.
On Derai’s home planet Dumarest had hoped to meet a living witness to to Earth. But instead he finds himself in the list of the deadly Contest on Folgone – with the Lady of Caldor as prize.
And on Folgone, for the first time, Dumarest confronts the Cybers, ruthless, emotionless tools of a great Gestalt which holds the mighty of the universe in its grip – a power which may yet provide him with the key to his quest for Earth.’
Blurb from the 1976 Arrow paperback edition
Dumarest is commissioned as bodyguard and escort to Derai, a daughter of Calder, one of the ruling families of the planet Hive.
Dumarest, on the journey to Hive, where he hopes to find someone who has a clue to the location of Earth, deduces that Derai is telepathic. Upon arrival, he becomes involved, against his better judgement, in Derai’s family politics. Her great-great grandfather has been kept alive long beyond his years by the use of the royal jelly produced by the mutated bees of the planet. It is a resource rigorously controlled by a cabal of the Families. The grandfather, however, has become so transformed by the jelly that he can no longer communicate.
The Calder family had engaged a cyber of the sinister Cyclan, to advise them, but the Cyclan have ulterior motives. Their true objective is Derai, since the power of telepathy could be of enormous benefit to the emotionless cybernetic brotherhood.
The original Arrow paperbacks of the seventies had cover artwork which ranged from the adequate to the bizarre and, on one occasion, plagiaristic since the artwork was copied from Roger Dean’s cover for Steve Howe’s ‘Beginnings’ album. In this instance, Dumarest is portrayed in boots, skimpy undercrackers, a futuristic helmet and an unfeasibly large gun.
One wonders what demographic the publishers were aiming at.
Despite the misleading cover art and the rather populist nature of the series, the writing is solid and there is decent characterisation. Tubb takes a generally nihilistic view of Humanity, a species which has spread throughout the galaxy and yet is still driven by stupidity, cruelty, greed, pride and lust. The saga of Dumarest is filled with the tragic lives of those he meets along the way, and more often than not, his friends die.
Like Asimov’s Foundation universe, Tubb’s is refreshingly free of intelligent alien species, although alien fauna and flora abound. In ‘Derai’ we have the mutated bees as well as a large plant on the planet Folgone which grows six-foot pods in which a human can be sealed. The human, slowly digested by the plant, experiences a subjective thousand years of virtual fantasy existence and finally has his intelligence subsumed into the tree, still aware.
Tubb was a master of these little flourishes, adding a touch of spicy colour to his dark industrial gothic brew.