Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. LVIV (Laumer + del Rey + Stableford + Dickson)

An overpopulation themed novel (at least for part) by Gordon R. Dickson….

A supposedly underrated/dark novel by Brian M. Stableford (according to some, one of his best)…

An early novel in Keith Laumer’s famous Retief sequence…

And a fun juvenile by Lester del Rey….

1. The Outposter, Gordon R. Dickson (1971)

(Bruce Pennington’s cover for the 1976 edition)

From the back cover: “Destination: Oblivion.  The Lottery played no favorites — if a person’s number came up, he joined the rest of the losers marked for exile from the overcrowded earth.  Shipped to a raw new outpost in space, they were called colonists, but their destination was oblivion.  THE OUTPOSTERS, a small band of specially trained experts, were given the task of guiding the exiles in their harsh environment and protecting them from the merciless aliens, the Meda V’Dans.”

2. Retief’s War, Keith Laumer (1966)

(Richard Powers’ cover for the 1967 edition)

From the back cover: “The twenty-seventh century planet of Quopp is a world where Earthmen walk cautiously or not at all.  The inhabitants are weirdly diabolical creatures, possessing spoked-wheel limbs and sprouting steal-sharp talons.  Plans are afoot to place these singular beings under a single government friendly to Earth.  But James Retief, officer of the distinguished Corps Diplomatique Terrestienne, a supra-national organization devoted to keeping the peace, has discovered that evil forces are undermining the whole scheme.  Deviously sincere, uncompromisingly venal, fearlessly cowardly, Retief goes to work against mounting planetary intrigue, and more than once bring those around him to the brink of nervous collapse.”

3. Man in a Cage, Brian M. Stableford (1975)

(Guy Billot’s cover for the 1975 edition)

From the dust jacket inside flap: “Harker Lee is a survivor.  His mind has withstood the threat of insanity and the pressure of imprisonment.  His lifelong struggle to keep mind and body together in the face of the hostile environment of the maximum-security block has been a struggle against the society of his fellowmen.  But that society can still find a need for him — a need for the ability to survive which it has tested to the full.  He had been taken from his cell once, to be used in experiments in reading minds.  Now he is brought forth again, to endure the ultimate test: to fly a Titan spaceship through hyperspace to the stars.  Star flight destroys the minds of sane men.  But Harker Lee is not sane — and his mind has a strength which sane men lack.  In Harker Lee, the man whom society has caged for his crimes, now lies the hope that man might break out of the greatest of all cages –the void of empty darkness which enfolds the Earth.  In this chilling, enthralling novel of psychology and science fiction, one final escape must be made, for a man and for mankind.”

4.  The Mysterious Planet, Lester del Rey (1953)

(Dean Ellis’ cover for the 1978 edition)

From the back cover: “PLANET X.  Discovered out beyond Pluto, the mysterious planet was at first an astronomical curiosity.  Then calculations indicated that its strange orbit would bring it closer to the sun… at twice the speed any planet could move.  Wing Nine of the Solar Federation Navy, on its way to investigate the intruding word, encountered a pirate craft armed with unfamiliar weapons, capable of incredibly speed, and fleeing toward Planet X.  Then more of those strange ships appeared, and the Navy geared up for the first space war.  But Cadet Bob Griffith stubbornly clung to his belief that Earthman and alien could meet peacefully.  So, defying orders, he drafted an unstable and spoiled playboy and his space yacht for a last-chance try at stopping Armageddon.  For if the might of the Federation met the advanced weaponry of the aliens from Planet Z, the inevitable class would surely destroy all life in the solar system.”

19 thoughts on “Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. LVIV (Laumer + del Rey + Stableford + Dickson)

    • Of the four I am only interested in Stableford’s Man in the Maze…. all the others were in a cheap bin for a buck each — hehe. Dickson is rather average, Stableford tends to be poor but supposedly this is one of his best works…. Haven’t read any in the Retief sequence yet but I suspect they are of the silly fun variety.

      • Just finished Stableford’s Man in a Cage. I really liked it, but I think it’s possible you might like it more. Though I have had limited contact with Malzberg, I guess it has a very similar style – not necessarily prose or presentation-wise, rather in its efforts to be alinear, psychological/philosophical, and overall anything but standard genre fare. Have a read if you haven’t already.

        • Yeah, I’ve gone to pick it up at least three times. But, never got more than a few pages — wasn’t in the mood. Considering how much I’m ambivalent to the rest of his stuff I hope that Man in a Cage is actually a masterpiece!

  1. Keith Laumer’s books are getting harder and harder to find. A large number of his titles have R. Powers covers, so I’m always on the lookout for them. I also don’t think they’ve been reprinted recently. Do you know if his books have recent reprints available ?

    • Are Laumer’s books any good? My two favorite haunts in St. Louis have a bunch of them, but I’ve never thought to get them. Maybe just the ones with the Powers covers are worth it.

      • I have no idea. My father swears they are fun reads in the comic vein of Lem (although, obviously not as intellectual, poignant, or witty). However, each story/novel is supposed to follow a very simple predictable script — à la a Star Trek episode…

      • Laumer’s books are generally pretty solid, but in the fun/campy/light-hearted vein, especially the Retief books which are all satiric/comedic. I’ve read a few of his satire-free SF novels, too, which are enjoyable potboilers… all in all, lighthearted fluff reading, pretty much everything Joachim said was spot on. (Double that for Dickson; “rather average” is a bit of a compliment in my opinion.) “Silly fun” describes Laumer well. Of course, YMMV.

      • I rather enjoyed Dickson’s The Alien Way (1965) — convincing Klingon-esque aliens…. With an intriguing culture. And the ending was rather surprising in that direct confrontation is avoided.

      • Joachim might give a better answer than I can since I only have 1 Laumer book, which I have not read yet.

        Laumer was a diplomat, so I’ve heard that his books focus more on social issues such as politics than on science. His Retief series is about the adventures of an intergalactic diplomat!

        His books are also supposed to be humorous as well. I saw a film based on one of his books, The Monitors. I’m not sure if it’s available on DVD. It was made in 1969, and is a bit dated, but very funny.

        • I have to admit, not sure when I’ll get around to reading him. We’ll see. Slightly more tempted by the short story Retief collection I have than the novel length treatment.

    • If I’m not mistaken I’ve seen the same cover on another science fiction book (perhaps even before this was published due to the low budget Manor books imprint shown which often used cover art that appeared on other novels)…. If only I could remember which…

  2. Joachim, Not only was the Pennington used on at least one other book–an A.E. van Vogt–it was issued as a poster, which hung on my bedroom wall as a teen waaaaay back in the 80s…..You need to read some Harlan Ellison. Laumer is okay but nothing special. There are some great authors and books you need to review for my enjoyment, he said selfishly!

    • Cool — it’s a fun cover.

      I am slightly more than half your age — I have time (I hope)…. hehe.

      I have Ellison’s collection Approaching Oblivion (1984) on my shelf. Will get to it soon.

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