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The Day Before Forever and Thunderhead

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The Day Before Forever:
The year was 2103. The place was Earth. And time-voyager Steve Dravek had already found out too much for his numbed brain to absorb. About the science of Cryonics, the freezing of human beings. About the visas caried by every man, woman and child - permits for living and for dying. About the reign of terror that enveloped Earth. Now, gun in hand, Steve stood in the inner sanctum of Eternity Incorporated. Sitting with his back toward him was the man who ruled this vast instrument of evil. Slowly the man turned. And the man Steve saw was himself...

Also included is the novellette "Thunderhead"

157 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1968

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About the author

Keith Laumer

378 books192 followers
John Keith Laumer was an American science fiction author. Prior to becoming a full-time writer, he was an officer in the U.S. Air Force and a U.S. diplomat. His brother March Laumer was also a writer, known for his adult reinterpretations of the Land of Oz (also mentioned in Keith's The Other Side of Time).

Keith Laumer (aka J.K Laumer, J. Keith Laumer) is best known for his Bolo stories and his satirical Retief series. The former chronicles the evolution of juggernaut-sized tanks that eventually become self-aware through the constant improvement resulting from centuries of intermittent warfare against various alien races. The latter deals with the adventures of a cynical spacefaring diplomat who constantly has to overcome the red-tape-infused failures of people with names like Ambassador Grossblunder. The Retief stories were greatly influenced by Laumer's earlier career in the United States Foreign Service. In an interview with Paul Walker of Luna Monthly, Laumer states "I had no shortage of iniquitous memories of the Foreign Service."

Four of his shorter works received Hugo or Nebula Award nominations (one of them, "In the Queue", received nominations for both) and his novel A Plague of Demons was nominated for the Nebula Award for Best Novel in 1966.

During the peak years of 1959–1971, Laumer was a prolific science fiction writer, with his novels tending to follow one of two patterns: fast-paced, straight adventures in time and space, with an emphasis on lone-wolf, latent superman protagonists, self-sacrifice and transcendence or, broad comedies, sometimes of the over-the-top variety.

In 1971, Laumer suffered a stroke while working on the novel The Ultimax Man. As a result, he was unable to write for a few years. As he explained in an interview with Charles Platt published in The Dream Makers (1987), he refused to accept the doctors' diagnosis. He came up with an alternative explanation and developed an alternative (and very painful) treatment program. Although he was unable to write in the early 1970s, he had a number of books which were in the pipeline at the time of the stroke published during that time.

In the mid-1970s, Laumer partially recovered from the stroke and resumed writing. However, the quality of his work suffered and his career declined (Piers Anthony, How Precious Was That While, 2002). In later years Laumer also reused scenarios and characters from his earlier works to create "new" books, which some critics felt was to their detriment:

Alas, Retief to the Rescue doesn't seem so much like a new Retief novel, but a kind of Cuisnart mélange of past books.

-- Somtow Sucharitkul (Washington Post, Mar 27, 1983. p. BW11)

His Bolo creations were popular enough that other authors have written standalone science-fiction novels about them.

Laumer was also a model airplane enthusiast, and published two dozen designs between 1956 and 1962 in the U.S. magazines Air Trails, Model Airplane News and Flying Models, as well as the British magazine Aero Modeler. He published one book on the subject, How to Design and Build Flying Models in 1960. His later designs were mostly gas-powered free flight planes, and had a whimsical charm with names to match, like the "Twin Lizzie" and the "Lulla-Bi". His designs are still being revisited, reinvented and built today.

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Displaying 1 - 9 of 9 reviews
Profile Image for Lars Dradrach.
779 reviews
July 29, 2018
3 stars for the story and an extra for a rediscovered story from my early teens that still holds up.

Two very different short stories from the late sixties from the very overlooked and nearly forgotten Keith Laumer.

The Day Before Forever is classic action sci-fa in style of early Heinlein, a man awakes without a memory a slowly puts the pieces together while discovering a world several hundred years after the one he was born in.

Thunderhead a bittersweet story about a forgotten corporal on an outskirt world, who after twenty years receives orders from “Star command” a story about duty and honour.

Read this in a Danish translation from 1973, amazing how poorly translated it was, I guess sci-fi was a rather low priority for the publishers at that time.
Profile Image for Jim.
1,102 reviews64 followers
April 26, 2018
A fast read of a typical pulpish 60s-type science fiction story (actually from 1968). By Keith Laumer (1925-1993), one of the more prolific SF authors of the 60s. I consider him an average SF author, with some good stories, but nothing outstanding (as far as I know!). This one is typical Laumer. Steve Dravek wakes up in the future-the year 2103. And it's a bummer-the world is controlled by a dictatorship. But Steve is a tough guy, if not a superman, and he's ready to take on the global tyranny. What I liked about the story is that it was fast-paced and there's a twist at the end. We know Steve is a good guy and will win in the end. So ***.
Profile Image for Craig.
4,886 reviews111 followers
June 17, 2018
The Day Before Tomorrow is a hard-boiled mystery with an interesting twist on the time-travel-through-cryogenics theme. It hasn't aged as well as one might wish, but it's good for Laumer fans. I preferred Thunderhead, the shorter of the two, a military story of duty and honor that would have been right at home in Campbell's Astounding alongside stories like Theodore Cogswell's The Specter General.
Profile Image for Tentatively, Convenience.
Author 16 books191 followers
March 31, 2015
review of
Keith Laumer's "The Day Before Forever" and "Thunderhead"
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - March 30, 2015

Ok, regular readers of my reviews may know by now that when I read a Keith Laumer bk it's b/c I'm extremely depressed & I want something simple & undemanding to read to tide me over while I try to recoup my energies. It's kindof like taking a laxative to get the Fallon out of you.

The weird thing about this one is that I'm sure I read the Thunderhead story before but I can't find it anywhere in my library or in my bk reviews. On the other hand, I don't remember reading The Day Before Forever at all. In the past few yrs I've gotten into the habit of putting a check mark next to the title & writing in pencil underneath the title the date of finishing it after I've read the bk. This bk isn't so marked, therefore, this is not where I read Thunderhead before.

Ok, ok, that's neither here nor there. This is 2 novellas. Laumer was off & on in the military at the same time he was writing SF. Sometimes he's cynical about that, sometimes he tells stories that're basically military stories - the 'classic' spiders-from-outer-space-threatening-humanity type of stuff that many people probably think is all there is to SciFi. It's not.

In "The Day Before Forever, the world's human population is high: "We can't have the dead waking up, they tell us: there's no room for them, with a world population of twenty billion." (p 26) & class is nicely articulated in slang: "["]we live in a rigidly stratified society; Dooses know little of the activities of Crusters; Threevees never venture down to Forkwaters; and no graded citizen ever sets foot dirtside, among the visaless Preke rabble."" (p 32) This is, in most ways, a typical 'manly' adventure story:

"Blood was pumping from a wound in his back I couldn't have covered with my hand. I hooked his arm and he was on his feet; his legs were like broken straws, but his knife was in his hand.

""Leave me . . ." he sucked in air and it bubbled. ". . . by the door . . . I'll greet . . . the first one . . . through . . ."

"I slung him over my shoulder and ran." - p 51

& it has the typical manly-man-gets-woman trope:

""What are you doing?" She was right there, with an arm around me, propping me up. "Are you trying to kill yourself?"

"Her hand was against my bare back; it was smooth and warm. The arm that went with it was nice too. I put an arm around her, pulled her to me." - p 62

As generic as Laumer's writing is, tho, it's rare that I read something that doesn't have something in it to surprise me: "I was an untagged man, and as invisible to them as an Indian was to General Braddock." (p 69) A reference to the history of my neck of the woods! Wasn't expecting that. Slang expressions & euphemistic vulgarity & ways of not speaking directly while still being circumspect are always fun too: ""Excuse it kid, I was up all night, and I don't mean walking the baby," and patted her hip going past." (p 86)

So much for my 'review' of The Day Before Forever in wch there've been spoilers at all. Now, on to Thunderhead wch, for all I know, I've already reviewed somewhere. In it, he tries to provide some semblance of believability & respect for the spider-'monster' other:

"The One-Who-Records expelled a gust of the planet's noxious atmosphere from his ventral orifice-array, with an effort freed his intellect of the shattering extinction-resonances it had absorbed. Cautiously, he probed outward, sensing the strange fiery mind-glow of the alien . . ." - p 148
8 reviews1 follower
May 3, 2021
I picked up a copy of this book while looking for Keith Laumer's, "Bolo". Bolo was at least in part, the inspiration for the 1977 board game, "OGRE" by Steve Jackson Games.

This book has blue edging, and looked intriguing sitting there on the used bookshelf looking unread for 50+ years. I took this book on a camping trip, and thankfully it was beautiful weather to sit outside and read a page turner. I knew nothing about either story in this book--just that I'd read another book by the author and liked it.

The first story, "The Day Before Forever" is a noir mystery. Laumer describes very vivid scenes describing textures and colors of the setting and I kept envisioning the scenes he was describing as frames of a movie. Some groundbreaking hard sci-fi mysteries in the 1960s are troupes now in the 2020s, but even if you think you've got this one figured out, there are still some enjoyable surprises--right up to the very last page of the story. I couldn't wait to share my discovery of this great story with my wife and friends. I'm excited for them to read it as well so we can discuss it.

"Thunderhead" is much shorter, at about 40 pages, but equally enjoyable and set in a completely different world from "The Day Before Forever" or "Bolo". Thunderhead is a story about conflicting duties, responsibilities, and a man's dependability. The story unfolds from three different prospectives and on two different scales. This was my second book and third trip into a world crafted by Laumer and I'm excited to seek out his other books and read them.
Profile Image for Traummachine.
417 reviews8 followers
December 17, 2018
Laumer’s always tough for me to review. I love the gritty, action-oriented pulp feel of his stories, they’re fast, fun, and engaging. But the toxic manliness that he felt compelled to infuse in the whole thing is grating. The only emotions are oh so masculine. The only female characters are there as love interests at best, “conquests” at worst. I get that it was the 60s, but...I really enjoy some aspects of his fiction, but I always have to brace for impact.

This was a collection of a couple novellas (or short novels?):
- “The Day Before Forever” takes place in a dystopian future Earth. Our hero wakes on a street in unfamiliar surroundings, unsure how he got there. He’s soon attacked, rescued, and then off to solve the mystery of where he is and what’s going on. It’s an exciting story with the pacing of an action adventure but is 100% sci-fi. Classic Laumer!
- “Thunderhead” tells of an officer forgotten on a remote outpost on a planet in the outer rim. This tale cuts between the abandoned officer’s climb up Thunderhead mountain, to fleet command and their struggles along a hostile enemy border. Laumer likes to use this old trick of giving both perspectives, with each unaware of the other and reacting accordingly. He does it well, and this was a fun read.

So overall I’d give the stories themselves 3.5 stars each, but minus 1/2 star due to the almost non-existence of women in both stories. Nothing specifically offensive in these though.
Profile Image for Steve Rainwater.
167 reviews10 followers
January 2, 2022
An average action-oriented adventure from the 1960s.

The plot involves cryonics suspended animation and cloning. The protagonist is Steve Dravek, who "wakes up" standing in a dark alley in the year 2103 not knowing where, when, or why he is. His last memories seem to be from the 1960s and include ex-Nazi submarine captains and corporate espionage related to a new cryogenic food storage system. He also realizes he's much younger than he should be based on his memories.

He quickly becomes entangle in various life-or-death interactions with "meat-leggers" who want to harvest his body parts for the black market. Eventually he falls in with a small-time crook who's hobby is trying to overthrow a giant corporation that controls the world through a monopoly on cryogenics and medical rejuvenation technology.

Along the way he finds a trail of clues left by what seems to be an earlier version of himself that helps him slowly find out what's going on.

There is a lot of fighting, shooting, explosions, and not quite enough dialog to really explain things.
168 reviews1 follower
August 17, 2022
Fairly standard Laumer stories. Entertaining in much the same way as the pulp detective and sci-fi stories of the '30s, 40s, and '50s. Laumer was incredibly prolific, and always fun to read.
Displaying 1 - 9 of 9 reviews

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