Yes, this is another collection of short stories by Keith Laumer. That’s because Laumer didn’t write many long stories. Laumer has a knack/gift for distilling a book to the essentials: the climax. He manages to bring you in just before the climax, grant you sufficient information to understand the climax and then takes you through the climax. You seldom feel as if you’ve missed anything as well. When I read Laumer, I often feel that the story could have had more depth and breadth, but it really wasn’t necessary to appreciate the work.
In this collection, the first story is exceptionally good. The story is about a twentieth century young man (down on his luck) who accidentally manages to be picked up by a space ship. In each phase of the story, something terrible happens to our unlikely hero. Every time, he accrues more scars and more skills before he escapes. Skills, I might add, that are necessary to helping him overcome the next obstacle. Our hero’s odyssey is somewhat predictable though: on the spaceship, he meets a young lady with whom he instantly falls in love. He is charged to protect her; she is captured on his watch. Then his quest begins to rescue her despite the minor detail that she was captured by an unknown race (thought to be extinct) from a distant portion of the galaxy. Not the most amazing plot or the most creative, but somehow, Laumer makes it a page turner.
There are a variety of interesting and philosophical middle stories that follow this first tale.
The final story is intriguing in that it covers time travel. We follow a time traveler who has the job of restoring the damage done to the fabric of time by earlier unwary time travelers. This is a confusing story as the time travel isn’t well explained, but it is still an interesting thought. Each successive era of mankind (since time travel was discovered) has attempted to repair the rips in time created by earlier generations. Each successive generation sees the previous efforts as clumsy and destructive and in their arrogance attempt to solve the problems – before the fabric of time self destructs. In many ways this story discusses the arrogance of mankind and the foolishness of men who think that they have achieved ultimate knowledge.
The stories are interesting as always. A warning in that the stories have mild profanity and the final story has an objectionable scene between the leading characters. I don’t know how bad it is as I skipped it.
I do find time travel interesting. I have another book on the subject coming up next week.