I decided to review both books simultaneously as they are both compilations of short stories. Laumer’s books are intriguing for their styling, both fast paced and full of interesting similes. Much of his work is (apparently) focused on a lone wolf hero who must rescue the world. I can see that come out over the course of these two works. Seldom do the main characters have any support or assistance from others. When they do, those others tend to die or be maimed etc…
After reading A Plague of Demons I was a bit excited. I had stumbled upon an author who wrote light science fiction and that was reasonably clean. Further, the first short story of his that I had read, Greylorn told first-person story of a starship captain dealing with a mutinous crew. The captain used his brains and psychology to outwit the crew and save the day. Not, that there wasn’t a bit of action mind you, but that was secondary and in support of the use of his intellect to solve the problems. I learned to appreciate that approach to life some time ago: when you don’t have the money or tools of others, you use your God given talents (relying first on Him, secondarily on your talents) to out think a better equipped and better funded opponent.
I thoroughly enjoyed Greylorn and then proceeded to read the entire book. There were a few swear words in Plague but nothing that would push it passed a mild PG rating. Then I moved to the next book: Future Imperfect. This one easily pushed PG13 and had some mild adult content (i.e. not explicit but more than was needed). Arg. That is so annoying.
Would I recommend that you read Laumer? Depends on the person. Laumer does have some interesting qualities that make for good philosophical and literary discussions. For example, Laumer emphasizes the intellect over everything else. Most of his works in these two books (published 1965 and 1966) swirled around the mind and soul. Whether it was a man being slowly transformed from a human to a superman to a super tank while maintaining his individuality and personality or whether it is a discussion of cloning and eternal life. Always, the person is more than the body and more than an animal. Laumer seemed to see something special in the intellect; possibly from a modified humanistic perspective. His work seems to acknowledge evolution while maintaining the uniqueness of the human. In one story the only thread between each incarnation of the man was the brain which was transported from body to body. In another, the body was nothing, but the collection of memories and personality tapes recreated the man himself. So apparently Laumer saw man as more than flesh, but not necessarily more than the collection of his memories and personality.
Laumer also leans on the use of telepathy and other mental powers in several of these works. Once again that reinforces his fascination with the mind and its power.
Plague was a set of adventure stories and you should at least read Greylorn and Thunderhead. They are great adventure stories about heroism, duty, and honor.
Laumer experimented with another genre of science fiction called dystopian. Dystopia is the opposite of utopia. Dystopia being my new vocabulary word. 🙂 Typically, dystopian works like Orwell’s 1984 focus heavily on the dystopian world, while Laumer’s characters just happens to inhabit the dystopia. The dystopian world is around the character but not the point or the driving focus of the book. In The Day Before Forever contained within Future Imperfect, an evil company that controls life and death, parcels out organs at high price to those who can afford replacements wants Steve Dravek dead. Meanwhile, Dravek has a nasty hangover and a scrambled memory. His attempts to piece together his life leads him to confront the evil ETORP organization, though he approaches it rather obliquely. It isn’t his primary goal to attack ETORP, but simply survival.
Other dystopia focus on end of the world conditions, the so called catastrophe movies like Day After Tomorrow and Impact. Not that I have watched them, but they represent the usual approach to a dystopian universe.
Anyway, the point of my rambling was to observe how Laumer approaches these subjects in a manner worthy of consideration. Very different approach than the typical genre.
Another point to consider: Baen Publishers has chosen to make these and other works available for free in a multitude of formats. I like this as it allows me to read books on my PDA easily when I have 3-5 minutes where I am waiting in line or walking. Yes, I read while I walk. Make use of my time. Baen believes that by giving some books away, people will be more likely to purchase hard copies. Can’t say that I’m opposed or that I think they are wrong. Its a brilliant idea. Read about it here. Get copies of their free books here.