Veruchia (Dumarest #8) – EC Tubb (1973)
‘Earl Dumarest, trans-galactic soldier of fortune, is still seeking his birthplace, the fabled planet Earth…
But then, on the distant, decadent planet Dradea, he meets the mysterious, mutant woman Veruchia. She selected him from the gladiators’ arena to become her servant… and more.
Soon, Dumarest discovers that she too is engaged in a quest – and that the fate of her planet hangs in the balance. Fascinated, compelled, he agrees to help her.
But then he must face bizarre perils which make the gladiatorial area seem a haven of safety…’
Blurb from the 1977 Arrow paperback edition.
For me, at least initially, this book didn’t seem to have been written in Tubb’s usual style. Dumarest, still searching for clues to the location of Earth finds a planet where a hidden underground city was destroyed by atomic weaponry some fifty years previously.
No one on the planet knew that the city was even there, or who destroyed it, although Dumarest suspects it might have been one of the hidden habitations of The Original People.
Soon afterwards, Dumarest is attacked with a drugged dart but manages to disable his attacker who later dies in suspicious circumstances.
Dumarest wakes up in hospital and realises that the Cyclan must be after him. The authorities fear that this incident is part of a wider interplanetary war of intelligence agents and insist that Dumarest leave the planet, which he does, but not by the expected route.
He thus ends up on Dradea, competing in a bizarre form of gladiatorial games. He is spotted by an elderly retainer of the ruling family and recruited to protect Veruchia, one of the heirs to planetary rule.
The ruler subsequently dies and Veruchia must prove that she is a descendant of the owner of the ship that colonised the planet in order to succeed to the title.
Her rival, however, has hired the services of the Cyclan who are aware that Dumarest is on the planet and that they must thwart Veruchia’s plans to find the original ship to stake her claim.
So, there’s a race against time to find the ship before the deadline, which they do, with the help of Dumarest’s affinity twin symbiote thing.
There’s a final fight with Veruchia’s rival and the cyber, and Dumarest finds archaic coordinates in the ship’s log which could help him pinpoint the location of Earth.
Once more the cover artist (ignoring for the moment the blatant female sexual pose, looking terrified in a porn pose sort of way and being protected by Dumarest from a giant turkey when, in the text, she was in the audience and in no danger whatsoever) has blatantly stolen designs from Roger Dean. Even for 1977, this is a very cheap trick to play