My life in outer space

The Time Mercenaries – Philip E High (1968)

The Time Mercenaries

There had been one war scare too many and so the human race had used genetic sorcery to delete the aggressive tendencies from its heredity. But now mankind was faced with an alien enemy so superior, so ruthless, that it was fight or be wiped out . . . and the humans could not fight. They couldn’t even give orders to their robots to produce weapons.
The only possibility was to call up and bring back to life a museum exhibit, the submarine Euphrates and its battle-trained crew. The ship had been sunk a thousand years before and had been preserved to show the decadence of violence – violence which was the only hope against an enemy to whom living space was all-important and human life was entirely superfluous.’

Blurb from the 1968 H-59 Ace Doubles paperback edition

British writer Philip E High brings us a very enjoyable romp here. Captain Randall is is in control of a navy submarine which is hit by a warship and sinks to the bottom of the ocean to be forgotten for a thousand years.
Then, Randall, his sub and his crew are resurrected by a human civilisation that spans some twenty five worlds, and taken to a human colonised planet.
Humanity has genetically altered itself to be incapable of violent thought or action and now needs the captain and his crew to combat an alien invasion.
This, like Kenneth Bulmer’s ‘Behold The Stars’ examines – not very deeply in either case to be honest – the theme of Humanity being altered to become pacifist.
High did not intend, I think, to make a political point about it, and it is explained to Randall that the cause of their action was the pointless wars and belligerence that would have destroyed the human race.
The aliens are somewhere between an insect and a frog and need habitable worlds to expand since they breed prodigiously producing thousands of frogspawn-like eggs which Randall observes floating in the alien sea.
We therefore will have little sympathy for the invaders when Randall goes about destroying their bases.
There’s some decent characterisation, even with the robots that this future civilisation has given to Randall to aid in his mission.
The moral here, if there is one, is that sometimes you have to fight for your survival.
It is one of the better Ace Doubles, and although at heart is a simple story of man versus nasty beasties, is nonetheless highly enjoyable.


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