Behold The Stars – Kenneth Bulmer (1965)
‘The space-boxes brought terror to Terra
White Flag for Earthmen
Man had discovered a means of colonizing the galaxy. Through a system of instantaneous matter transmission, men, machines, anything, could be sent light years away in seconds!
Only, men were not the only beings in the galaxy who were expanding, and at 200 light years from Earth the alien Gershmi people made their claims clear, with guns!
It would have been a fair fight between equally matched races, had not the very matter transmitter boxes which had made mankind’s expansion possible, suddenly began to put men back together, 200 light years from Earth, with their will to fight removes, so that Earthmen were marching with white flags of truce straight into Gershmi fire!’
Blurb from the M-131 1965 Ace Doubles paperback edition
In one of those futures with advanced technologies combined with the social values of the early Nineteen Sixties, Earth is at the centre of a diaspora via matter transmission.
Ships are sent out into the galaxy, dropping off ‘boxes’ (matter transmitters) here and there so that others can travel through the boxes from Earth instantaneously.
Alien races have been discovered, such as The Venies, with whom Earth was once at war.
Dave Ward is ex-military and now working as a box maintenance engineer. Out on the frontier of space people are starting to go missing. Dave has a scare himself when he is transmitted to what he thought would be a ship – lightyears from Earth – and finds himself on a 2G planet being attacked by Earth’s latest threat, the Gershmi.
Dave has also been recruited by Earth’s Intelligence Services to track down his best friend, Steve Jordan, who is also missing.
Part mystery, part action adventure, this novel actually works quite well.
The morality and political message is a little naive and delivered with the subtlety of a sledgehammer, and is ‘Shoot at the enemy first. It’s no good talking to him.’
It would be nice to see some internal debate about the pros and cons of pacifism, but there is none. In terms of theme it bears comparison with Heinlein’s ‘The Puppet Masters’ and Finney’s ‘The Body Snatchers’ where hapless Americans have been taken over or replaced by aliens and no longer respect right wing values. Family members begin to insist that their ‘loved one’ is different somehow.
Finney and Heinlein are much better at the subtle metaphor however. There is little subtlety here, and no actual metaphor.
One feels that Bulmer might have achieved more if he hadn’t been so prolific. He wrote in excess of one hundred and fifty novels during his career, which covered historical sagas, westerns and SF, as well as penning episodes of the UK series ‘The Professionals’.
It would be wrong to consider Bulmer as just a jobbing author however, since he has made a substantial contribution to the genre as both an author and editor.