My life in outer space

1960s

Ultimatum in 2050 AD – Jack Sharkey (1965)

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“PACKAGED PEOPLE IN A WORLD GONE BERSERK.

It was the year 2050 A.D. and the Hive, with its ten million inhabitants, was going along as smoothly as ever. Except that, on a whim, Kinsman Lloyd Bodger, Jr. had helped a fugitive girl escape hospitalization, and she had told him her secret. “There are no hospitals! There is only death!” Of course it couldn’t be true. Lloyd Bodger’s own father was second in command of the Hive, the first true democracy.

“But Why,” she had said, “doesn’t anyone ever return from hospitalization? Why is the population always a constant ten million?”

Well, young Bodger reasoned grimly, he would soon know the truth. For hiding the fugitive girl, he himself would either be hospitalized, or fed into the incinerator chutes!’

Blurb from the M-117 1965 Ace Double Paperback Edition.

By 2050, due to various factors caused by the US administration in the 1970s, the human population has been reduced to 10 million, all contained within a sealed city, ‘The Hive’, run along totalitarian Orwellian lines. Those who fall ill or fail to match the expectations of society are hospitalised for treatment or re-adjustment, but none of them return.
Lloyd Bodger is the son of the Secondary Speakster (the Vice President essentially), the Prime Speakster being one Fredric Stanton. Stanton has gone out of his way to adjust the rules of ‘The Brain’ which controls the city. This has ensured that his time in office was extended long beyond the usual term.
Citizens are required to vote on political motions regularly and Lloyd, having fallen behind on his voting quota, is keen to make up the difference. Here he meets a girl on the run, one of the resistance, and helps her escape from certain execution. Obviously, his actions are observed and Lloyd’s father is informed by Stanton himself.
This sets in motion a series of events which results in a revolution of sorts and a new start for the human race.
It’s an odd little ‘pocket universe’ tale which leaves little room for any character development and throws in some very dubious scientific concepts. Bodger Senior, we discover, was made practically immortal by a failed experiment back in the Twentieth Century which has left his insides radioactive. The citizens of the Hive are nightly engulfed in an artificial total darkness called Ultrablack. The explanation for this makes no sense either. Robot ‘goons’ wander the street, picking up any citizens found outside after curfew and delivering them to ‘the hospital’.
There is a section toward the end where Bodger discovers how the Hive came to be a totalitarian regime, and it makes sense of a sort. It’s not that important however, and Sharkey would have been better employed using the precious word count to try and inject some additional dimensions to very cardboard characters. One would have thought his might have been one of the author’s strengths since Sharkey was better known as a playwright (under various names) and was responsible it seems for a production entitled ‘Dracula, the Musical?’ in 1982.
It’s not a bad piece of work for an Ace Double but could have benefited from some serious revision.

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The Space Time Juggler – John Brunner (1963)

The Space-Time Juggler

‘DUEL IN THE ARENA OF THE STARS

Andalvar of the planet Argus, king of an interstellar empire, was dead and fear ruled in his absence. The dread of a power struggle between the treacherous Andra, and “Black Witch,” and the beautiful Princess Sharla showered panic upon the people and threatened to crumble the starry realm to dust. But their powers were restricted to the present, and before either could sit on the throne, they would have to come to grips with the man from the future who held the destiny of the universe in his hand. His name: Kelab the Conjurer – THE SPACE-TIME JUGGLER’

Blurb from the 1963 F-227 Ace Double Paperback Edition

Set in the same universe as The Altar on Asconel this inhabits that uneasy space between SF and Fantasy.
Following the death of the King of Argus, Andra, ‘The Black Witch’ has become regent on this colony world which has in the main reverted to feudalism. Her older sister Sharla – missing for seven years and presumed dead – suddenly reappears to claim her place accompanied by Landor and the swordsman Ordovic.
Another stranger also arrives, Kelab the Conjuror, a man who appears to command magic and, it seems, is interfering in court business.
It would be giving the plot away to explain anything further as it’s a brief read which is well-written but suffers from a lack of cohesion between the slave-owning and sword-wielding society and the hi-tech elements.
There is no individuality to this society. It is set in the mould of every other far future feudal planet favoured by the likes of Lin Carter and his contemporaries, which somehow always has to include some monarchist system. The characters are stock stereotypes with little light and shade. There is a decent enough surprise and plot twist bit one feels this could have been a far better novel given some thought to the world building and some space to develop characters.


To The Tombaugh Station – Wilson Tucker (1960)

.To The  Tombaugh Station

‘Was His Spaceship Haunted – or Only Booby-trapped?

MANTRACK TO THE ENDS OF SPACE

Kate Bristol was a born huntress. Her keen senses and steel nerves were infallible, and nobody knew it better than her superiors at Interworld Insurance. They took it for granted that when they put Bristol on the case she would bring back the man — and the facts!
But even Kate began to doubt her ability when they handed her the job of tracking a murder suspect on board the spaceship Xanthus. One, the ship was bound for the farthermost outpost of civilization. Two, there would be no one on board the ship but Kate and the suspected murder-pilot. And three, the trip would take at least two months!
For Kate this assignment was more than just a challenge — it was life or death. She had always to stay one step ahead of the suspect or she might never live to return from that trip TO THE TOMBAUGH STATION.’

Blurb from the 1960 D-479 Ace Double paperback edition

The unfortunately-named Kate Bristol is a kind of female ninja insurance investigator who has been asked to take on an undercover insurance investigation. One of the partners in what is essentially an interplanetary haulage business is dead, possibly murdered.
Kate hires their only ship to take her on a long haul flight across the solar system, knowing that her main murder suspect will be the captain and pilot.
Bristol leaves the destination up to Webb, the man suspected of the foul deed, but she is not expecting Webb to pick up a lucrative haulage deal from the Tombaugh station on Pluto.
It’s a bit of an odd premise that insurance investigators would go to such lengths as chartering a space ship to fly to Pluto and back, but this was in the days when writers imagined that in the future we’d have individuals with their own spaceships flying hither, thither and yon.
It’s not one of Tucker’s best and lacks suspense. Bristol is hardly ever in danger at all so the journey to Pluto is hardly a rollercoaster of white knuckle drama.
Having said that, Tucker has created two credible characters here between whom the dialogue and interaction work very well. With a little more work, some moments of tension and more ambiguity over Webb’s guilt or innocence, it could have been raised to a whole other level.
Tucker should also be credited with creating a tough independent (and intelligent) female lead character at a time when most writers (and editors) were still a little Neanderthal in relation to gender equality. One could argue that she is, to a certain extent, still being portrayed as a sex object. It’s a step in the right direction however and a far cry from van Vogt’s dumb helpless maidens who need Men to sort out their problems.
Nineteen Sixty, it appears, was a pivotal point for change.
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Galactic Pot Healer – Philip K Dick (1969)

Galactic Pot-Healer

Joe Fernwright is a pot healer – as was his his father before him – in a future totalitarian dystopia although his services are somewhat redundant since no one makes or breaks ceramics any more.
One day Joe gets a mysterious message offering him a job on Sirius V. The message turns out to be from an all powerful entity known as the Glimmung who is launching a project to raise a sunken cathedral from the ocean bed.
Being a Dick novel, things are not as straightforward as this synopsis would imply.
Fernwright is one of a large number of humans and alien experts in various fields who have been promised a fortune in payment to undertake work on the project. Many, however, are suspicious of the Glimmung’s ultimate objectives, especially as the experts all appear to have all been implicated in various crimes just prior to departure which they suspect were engineered by this being.
There are various Dick hallmarks here, such as the grasping ex-wife, the concept of Fatalism and a surprisingly overt use of humour where he is normally more subtle and understated. We have the world of the dead and the decaying beneath the ocean where at one point Joe meets his dead self.
There is also a religion which features the concepts of the duality of light and dark, something he had already explored, perhaps to better effect, in ‘The Cosmic Puppets’.
We are also in familiar territory with Dick’s lackadaisical attitude to technology and actual science since there is no attempt to explain how the ships that ferry the team to Sirius V operate or indeed the very idiosyncratic robots with whom they have to deal once they arrive. We have no problem as readers with the fact that Sirius V has Earth standard gravity and atmosphere. It didn’t matter to Dick, and for reasons I can’t fathom, doesn’t matter a jot to me either. He somehow always get away with it.
Much of the novel hinges on truth and trust. It becomes clear that the Glimmung is quite capable of lying, and Joe and his colleagues have to employ a a mixture of logic and intuition to determine the best course of action. Added to this is the book of the Kalends, a kind of prophetic bible which changes daily and seems to prophesy the future of the protagonists with uncanny accuracy (in English and various other languages, both human and alien).
Joe, on his dive into the ocean to see the cathedral – against the Glimmung’s express instructions – discovers an ancient vase half covered in coral but one which carries a personal message for him under the glaze. He notices that some of the coral has been removed, which implies that he was meant to see it, but did the Glimmung forbid Joe to go down to the sunken cathedral simply because he knew that Joe then would?
This is one example of a paranoid undercurrent that runs like a thread throughout this novel showing Joe and his companions forced to question the veracity of what they have been told or read. It’s a fascinating and particularly Dickian concept but like almost every other concept in this book is underdeveloped.
There’s something else very flawed about this novel, most essentially in its internal reality which produces an uneasy mixture of tone. There are the serious scenes, such as Joe being given a message by his dead decaying self, and those in which we have comical robots called Willis and clams that tell jokes. Maybe Dick considered that the contrast would make the serious scenes more powerful but it just doesn’t work. ‘Clans of The Alphane Moon‘ held the balance perfectly and despite its ludicrous premise – that Earth had set up a Mental Health facility on one of the moons of Alpha Centauri which was cut off and left to its own devices during the long years of the Alphane war – is a far more complex, structured and amusing work.
This is not a major Dick novel but it has its moments and needs to be studied by Dick enthusiasts if only to identify the PKD trademarks and how they are related to their use in other novels.


Tramontane – Emil Petaja (1967)

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‘IMMORTAL VENGEANCE

About Tramontane:

This fourth science-fantasy novel based on the Finnish legendary epic, KALEVALA, seemed like a good idea because there are actually four important heroes in these wonderful legends, and this novel completes the cycle concerning itself with the prophecy of the Great Return when the Vanhat seed shall return to Oava, the planet of their origin.

Kullervo is the “bad one” of the legends. Ugly, sullen, despised, he was actually born out of evil. He kicked his cradle to pieces and refused to drown when the wise women flung him into the river. As a vindictive cow-herd slave he changed cows into bears and this killed all of Ilmarinen’s household. Like Manfred and Oedipus, he was predestined for tragedy and doom. However, he is surely one of the most fascinating characters in all mythology. Jean Sibelius, the great Finnish composer, chose his tragic life for the theme of this magnificent symphonic tone poem, Kullervo, one of his finest works, involving choruses, soloists, and a sweeping Wagnerian nobility.

My Kullervo Kasi, a prototype of his ancestor, is the spawn of a leakage from a dark dimension of matter-energy that is incompatible with the life-forces in this one. Therefore, Kullervo Kasi is the natural choice of the Starwitch Louhi to find the tag-end o remnants f the Vanhat existing somewhere on despoiled Terra and destroy them . .

Emil Petaja’

Blurb from the H-36 1967 Ace Double Paperback edition

In the fourth segment of Petaja’s reimagining of The Kalevala. The Starwitch Louhi rescues Kullervo Kasi from certain death on a volcanic world and. realising that he is the reincarnation of the Kullervo of legend, recruits him her quest to destroy the Vanhat.
Kullervo, not human enough to engender longstanding trust from humans, travels by Mothership from planet to planet, each time being moved on.
Louhi imbues him with powers which allow him to control the alchemical elements of Fire, Earth, Air and Water, but only to kill enemies on his journey to Earth to destroy the Vanhat before the prophecy can be fulfilled of their return to their own world. He encounters various grotesques, such as a corpulent cannibal pirate queen and some religious fundamentalists who are quickly dispatched to oblivion.
Although better written and more interesting than ‘The Stolen Sun’, Petaja’s relocation of The Kalevala to the far future with its uneasy mix of magic and technology doesn’t really work. The Science Fantasy subgenre, which saw its origins in Edgar Rice Burroughs, HP Lovecraft and Clark Ashton Smith achieved quite a level of sophistication in the Nineteen Sixties from authors such as Moorcock and M John Harrison. There has to be some form of internal logic that allows magic and technology to exist together and to convince the reader that this is plausible.
It is not present here, and we end up with something which is neither one thing nor the other and not a very satisfying blend of both.
‘Tramontane’ by the way, means ‘the stranger from over the mountain’, just in case you were wondering.


The Cosmic Computer – H Beam Piper (1964)

The Cosmic Computer (aka Junkyard Planet)

‘During the System States’ War, Poictesme was the general HQ and supply depot for the final thrust at the enemy. When the war ended, the buildings, the munitions, the freeze-dried food supplies, were all abandoned without a thought. Now the colony world is a poverty-stricken agricultural society with only two exports: the fermented products of their world’s unique grapes, and the salvaged war equipment, now selling at about 1% of its true value.

And, persisting over the decades, is the legend of MERLIN, the super-computer said to have planned the grand strategy which successfully concluded the war. “If we could only find Merlin,” the inhabitants said to each other, “all our problems would be solved.”

Then young Conn Maxwell returned from Earth, with a university degree, and a few clues about the location and the true nature of Merlin. And the sure knowledge that finding the Cosmic Computer would be the worst thing that could possibly happen to his home world.’

Blurb from the 1978 Ace paperback edition.

As is made clear from the blurb, Conn Maxwell was designated to travel to Earth from the colony world of Poictesme, a world desperate for regeneration following an intersystem war, to try and identify the location of the super computer Merlin, which many of the colonists believe is hidden somewhere on the planet and which they see as their salvation.
Although Conn has identified the sites of many abandoned bases and spacefields likely to contain valuable equipment and ships, he has been informed that Merlin was a myth, invented to boost morale and demoralise the enemy.
After making this clear to a trusted few, including his father, they decide to publicly embark on the search for Merlin, their aim being to loot the abandoned sites, build enough finances to build a hypership and trade on their own terms with Earth, exporting their valuable melon brandy and revitalising their world. If this means lying to the public, then so be it.
One can argue that this is borderline SF at best. The society of Poictesme is lifted wholesale from the US of the Nineteen Fifties, along with its values and inevitable sexism. Piper has made no attempt to create a believable colony society and, as other critics have pointed out, has not considered that computers may have been miniaturised by the time Man has reached the stars. To be fair, he was never alone in this, and it is the least of this novel’s problems. It suffers for one thing from a surfeit of minor characters, many of whom are not fleshed out enough to be distinguishable from the rest.
It is at root a political farce, possibly a homage to James Branch Cabell, since the name of the world and its main town are lifted from Cabell’s work. It has dated considerably in comparison with other novels of the time. It also owes a lot to Asimov’s ‘Foundation‘ trilogy at the denouement which uses the same premise of analysing data to predict the future of human civilisation in the galaxy.
Interestingly, Piper seems to have been the inventor of the word ‘Collapsium’ which Will McCarthy later used to great effect in his novels of The Queendom of Sol.
Having said all that it’s an entertaining piece and mildly amusing in places, but is not an important work by any stretch of the imagination.


Skylark Duquesne – EE ‘Doc’ Smith (1966)

Skylark DuQuesne (Skylark #4)

When last we saw DuQuesne in The Skylark of Valeron, he had been transformed into a being of pure mind by the other bodiless minds. They had all, in any case, been imprisoned in a vessel from which they could not escape and fired in a direction far away from the First Galaxy.
Seaton’s new alien friends, The Norlaminian minds, having thought things through, now realise that the vessel is likely to smash itself apart if it encounters any dense particles of matter at such an incalculable speed, and that DuQuesne is therefore likely to escape and return.
Seaton, thinking of Earth’s defence against such an outcome, enlists his alien friends to send out a specific thought, aimed at high powered minds who may have technology more advanced than currently known.
This is picked up by some of the humanoids in a far distant galaxy who are slaves of the Llurdians, a monstrous but ruthlessly logical race.
Some of the Fenachrone have also survived, and both DuQuesne and Seaton are ultimately forced to work together to battle an entire galaxy of evil Chlorans
Structurally it’s a bit of a mess. but its problems run deeper than that. The preceding volumes were all written in the Nineteen Twenties and Thirties and were, to give Smith his due, cutting edge SF at the time.
Thirty years on, SF had changed a great deal and Smith had to produce a sequel that matched the original trilogy stylistically and with a consistent internal logic.
Smith himself was obviously much older and writing erratically. In ‘The Galaxy Primes‘ he introduced sexual themes which were of course being explored by other writers of the time. In Smith’s hands, however, they come over as being a little creepy.
In the Skylark universe it seems, many aliens wander about naked. So, being neighbourly and all, Seaton decides that he, Crane, Crane’s wife and Dottie should be naked too, as well as Hiro the space-chef and and his new ninja-assassin wife Lotus Blossom. Of course, they’re all perfectly happy with this notion.
DuQuesne gets his kit off too, in an odd encounter on board the ship of a new humanoid race. DuQuesne is considered suitable material for breeding and so is paired up with a willing woman who takes him off to extract his sperm in what one presumes is the usual way.
Genocide is still Smith’s preferred solution to any difficulties one may be having with truculent aliens, and wipes the Chlorans from the face of their galaxy.
Smith is retreading old ground here, resurrecting both the Fenachrone and the Chlorans, rather than creating new enemies to confront. There are in fact a surfeit of enemies, which results in people flitting hither and thither and yon, to very little effect.
Smith had never been overly concerned about relativity or indeed physics in general. Here Seaton (and indeed DuQuesne, the Fenachrone, and the human slaves of the LLurdians) is zipping about from galaxy to galaxy without any ill-effects or serious time-dilation issues.
The denouement also, is a little strange since DuQuesne decides he is going to set up his own Empire in which a form of eugenics will become part of social custom.
The Skylark series should, in all honesty, have been left as trilogy. This late addition adds nothing to the experience and comes as something of an anti-climax.


Behold The Man – Michael Moorcock (1969)

Behold the Man

Popular music went through its punk phase in the mid Nineteen Seventies. It was almost an extinction event for some of the pop and rock establishment of the time and heralded a brief new era of musical diversity and experimentation.
SF had experienced its own punk revolution in the late Sixties, The New Wave movement, at the forefront of which, along with Judith Merrill, JG Ballard, MJ Harrison and others, was Michael Moorcock. The New Wave was an attempt to invigorate the SF genre and produce a more literary product with an emphasis on character, ‘inner space’ rather than outer space, and experimentation.
Their flagship magazine was ‘New Worlds,’ an already extant magazine which Moorcock took over as editor in the mid-Sixties. It was a groundbreaking publication which has since reappeared in various formats up to 1997.
‘Behold The Man’ was expanded from a novella which appeared in New Worlds in 1967.
Some New Wave writers set out to shock, and one would imagine that as controversial subjects go, Jesus Christ has to be fairly near the top of the list.
In a weird parallel with ‘The Life of Brian’ however, the subject of this novel is not the real Jesus of Nazareth, but one Karl Glogauer, of London.
Glogauer is one of Moorcock’s more fascinating creations, born presumably at the beginning of World War II and growing up in Nineteen Forties and Fifties England, much like Moorcock himself.
Glogauer is one of life’s victims; a target for bullies and a sadistic couple who run a children’s summer camp. He is in search of sexual and spiritual fulfillment, and finds neither although he does become fascinated by the work of Jung and hosts a regular meeting of like-minded individuals to discuss his work.
Glogauer is invited to the country by a member of the group, Sir James Headington, a scientist who claims to have discovered the secret of time travel. Even he, it seems has ulterior motives since he attempts, unsuccessfully, to seduce Glogauer. It does appear, however that the time travel equipment does work. Animals have apparently been sent to the past although the equipment has not as yet been tested with human subjects.
Subsequently, Glogauer becomes fixated on the life of Christ as his relationship with his girlfriend Monica begins to break down. Monica is an atheist who has her own views about where ‘Christian’ ideals originated.
When he finally breaks up with Monica, Glogauer immediately rings Sir James and volunteers to travel back in time, as long as he can choose the time and place of arrival.
And this is where this extraordinary novel begins, with Glogauer arriving in the Palestine area in around 28 AD. His experiences from herein on are interspersed with extracts from his life in the twentieth century, and passages from the Bible.
Initially, Glogauer’s desire is to meet Christ – who is destined to be crucified within a year – and to determine for himself the truth of the gospels. Glogauer is however injured when the time capsule arrives and the vehicle itself essentially destroyed since no technology exists in his current timeline to repair it.
He is taken on by the Essenes who believe that he is a prophet from Egypt. John the Baptist, who appears to be the leader of the Essenes, hopes to foster this belief and employ Glogauer in his resistance to Herod and Roman rule. He baptises Karl who then, seized with confusion, runs off and is lost in the wilderness.
Eventually, Glogauer finds his way to Nazareth and the home of Joseph the carpenter and his wife Mary.
Their son, Jesus, the result of an assignation on Mary’s part before she married Joseph, turns out to be a physically and mentally disabled man who can do nothing more than giggle and repeat his own name.
This is then the pivotal point. Glogauer now realises that he is on a predestinate path and must take on the role for which, it seems, he was born.
Having been trained in the basics of psychiatry and hypnotism Glogauer is able to easily cure some people of hysterical or psychosomatic conditions and, followed by a growing number of followers begins his inevitable journey toward Jerusalem and his death by crucifixion.
For a short novel it manages to pack a great deal in and says an awful lot about religion and the phenomenon of belief.
The author makes a telling point about the priests of the time which is just as relevant to today’s priesthood (of whatever religion) as it was two thousand years ago.

‘They would ask questions of the rabbis but the wise men would tell them nothing, save that they should go about their business, that there were things they were not yer meant to know. In this way, as priests had always done, they avoided questions they could not answer while at the same time appearing to have much more knowledge than they actually possessed.’

Chapter Thirteen

There are some shock factors in that, in line with the style of the New Wave, Moorcock introduces subjects one would not normally expect to find in a Science Fiction novel such as child abuse, sexual fetishism and homosexuality. Added to which, to hammer the final nail (an unfortunate metaphor I know) into the Christ myth Moorcock has Glogauer return to Joseph’s house once Joseph has gone to sell his wares, where he has sex with ‘the Virgin Mary’ until they are interrupted by the giggling drooling form of the real Jesus.
It’s a shame Mary Whitehouse never discovered this book as it would no doubt now be far more widely read than it is, which can only be a good thing.
For me, it’s one of Moorcock’s most original and underrated novels, possibly his best.


The Time Mercenaries – Philip E High (1968)

The Time Mercenaries

‘WHAT PORT AWAITED THE END OF THEIR THOUSAND YEARS BENEATH THE SEA?
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.


Behold The Stars – Kenneth Bulmer (1965)

Behold the Stars

‘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.