Retief! by Keith Laumer


Knowing that Laumer spent a portion of his life as a diplomat, I’d have to say that his view of diplomacy is quite depressing. In his series of short Retief stories, the CDT (Corp Diplomatic Terrestrial) consists of a bunch of wienies who want to attend parties, sign meaningless papers, and show displeasure via “strongly worded letters.” In other words, the CDT is comprised of a bunch of Caspar Milquetoasts….

If this is what a former diplomat actually thinks of the process, is there any hope for diplomacy?

Then of course, we have Retief who is a diplomat in the manner that you and I want to see a diplomat. He refuses to compromise right and wrong, refuses to cover his eyes to the truth in front of him, and Retief has saved the CDT’s bacon more times than anyone can count. Retief isn’t interested in making a name for himself, though. He good honest “horse sense” solutions for the people he’s serving. And when I say serving, it’s usually not his own “people,” but those who are going to be exploited by the CDT’s inability to act and respond.

Retief is always the humble character. He never takes credit for his work, but allows his moronic bosses to take credit. The downside to Retief’s humility is that the morons always get promoted over him. Still, this allows Retief to fly beneath the radar and get more accomplished as boots on the ground. If he were moved up the diplomatic chain, he wouldn’t be able to accomplish as much as he does.

This set of short stories are worth reading. Retief rescues the various peoples in creative ways and architecting creative solutions that allow everyone to save some face. Do what I did, pick up the book and read one or two every once and again. They make for fun reading especially when you read the newspaper and we find various western governments writing issuing “strongly worded statements” against crazy dictators.

There is very minor profanity in the book. You can grab a free electronic copy here. I stuck a copy on my PDA and read it whenever I had a few moments.

So, am I crazy or are these diplomatic techniques a waste of time?


8 thoughts on “Retief! by Keith Laumer

  1. I can give you one, maybe two, I will try and get you at least one by this afternoon.
    Thanks for the above review, that sounds like an interesting read.

  2. Retief truly is fun reading. I love his common sense approach to diplomacy. At least grab the electronic book and read a story or two out of it.

  3. I have never done a book review for you, and I only comment occasionally, but my boyfriend and I were thinking about doing a few reviews. Do you have any book/length preferences?

  4. Rebecca, the basic preference is that it be reviewed by someone other than Matt. He’s awesome but only has so much time. You wanna volunteer, hey, welcome to the club! Barring obscenely explict details, or boring liberal philosophy, you can’t mess up.

    Matt, that is a great reveiw. I will look that one up, a nice antidote for all the WTO stuff I’m reading. Hey, at least if the UN ever does rule the world, we won’t have to hide: just send a rep to ask them to talk about talking before they ever start talking about doing anything, and nothing will happen to you!

  5. Heh. Thanks for the nice thoughts….

    Yes, reviewing is easy. Tell us why you liked/didn’t like the book. The good, the bad, the ugly.

    And Sincerelyornot, if you use RSS, add Instapundit to your feed. I only read the occasionally link as he puts up too many to read a day, but he will keep you up to date on some of the crazier things going on.

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