The Rim of Space – A Bertram Chandler (1961)
‘FROM THE OUTER REACHES OF THE RIM WORLDS – INTO THE UNKNOWN
When Derek Calver touched down on Lorn, industrial hub of the Rim Worlds, he was determined to join the Rim Runners, to explore the desolate Rim planets.
So it was that Calver joined the crew of Lorn Lady and set forth for Mellise, inhabited by a race of intelligent amphibians; for Groller, where the natives just qualified as humanoids and had the beginnings of space travel; for Stree with its tea-loving philosophical lizards; and Tharn, home of a pre-industrial civilisation. And as Calver journeyed to the edge of the Rim he encountered the lure of the life beyond, the warped unknown infinity ‘Outside’.’
Derek is an unlikely name for a hero of the galactic rim, but Derek Calver is indeed the name of the central character in the first of Chandler’s Rim World series.
The Rim Worlds are attempting to break away from the Centralist grip of The Federation which rules the worlds of the inner galaxy. The settled human worlds of the Rim are bleak, industrial frontier settlements, but beyond these lie other worlds; alien worlds where traders can establish agreements with other races before the Federation do.
Chandler, a British born Australian writer, produces a readable if episodic product in which the embittered Calver, once an officer in the Federation Fleet, has signed up with one of the Rim Runners, an act equivalent, one imagines, to joining the French Foreign Legion. Having helped to destabilise an anachronistic feudal system (and in the process rescuing his love interest from the dungeons of an alien castle) Calver travels on in the ‘Lorn Lady’ quickly rising through the ranks (as superiors conveniently die) to become Captain of the Ship.
It’s a very cosy and somewhat juvenile book and is interesting in that it avoids the extreme polarisation of the sexes and hyper-masculinity of some of the US novels of the time. It’s also interesting to note that at least one of the alien races is not only benign (None of the alien races are overtly hostile to Humanity) but is scientifically and philosophically far in advance of our culture.
Having said that however, the aliens are somewhat simplistic and can be considered no more than ‘Johnny Foreigners’ appearing in the form of tea-drinking lizards and green-skinned warlords.
One of the more interesting and surreal aspects of the novel is the Psionic Radio Officer, Leaven, who amplifies his telepathic powers by the use of the living brain tissue of a dog, somehow kept alive in a glass container.