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Beyond The Imperium by Keith Laumer
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review of
Keith Laumer's Beyond the Imperium
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - April 16, 2015

I started getting interested in Laumer when I read my 1st bk by him in June, 2013, Time Trap, & I read 8 more bks by him in quick succession w/in a mnth, ending on The Invaders, wch was made-for-tv crap. In the meantime, I bought every cheap bk by him I cd find, adding another 10 to the collection to equal a total of 19.

Now, after being disgusted w/ Laumer as a hack writer, I'm back to reading him again & enjoying it more & more. The 2nd Laumer I read was Worlds of the Imperium, the 1st of the Imperium tales to wch this bk, Beyond the Imperium, is a sequel.

In my review of the 1st bk I synopsized it by writing: "The basic plot being that there're parallel universes & that in many of them a way to navigate these universes was discovered but that in most cases this discovery led to the destruction of life on the planet where the discovery was made or even the destruction of the entire planet. 3 of these parallel worlds survived & inhabitants of one of them kidnapped an inhabitant of another to save them from the dictator of the 3rd - or so most of them thought." ( http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/30... )

I'd read that Laumer had a stroke in 1971, after the 1st Imperium bk, & 10 yrs before the publication of this one, so I was looking forward to reading Beyond the Imperium as a post-stroke bk by him - essentially rooting for his recovery. Alas, instead, the 2 pts of this bk were copyrighted in 1965 & 1968, pre-stroke, & just not released in this form until 1981, post-stroke.

I liked it. It's the longest thing I've read by Laumer yet & I found it well-developed. One confusing thing is that on the copyright page "Book I, The Other Side of Time" & "Book II, Assignment in Nowhere" are referred to but in Beyond the Imperium, the labeling is: "Book I, Assignment in Nowhere" & "Book II, The Other Side of Time". I'll stick to the latter designation in my comments.

I liked Book I the most, Book II was a bit too sword'n'sorcery for my tastes. Both are adventure stories exemplified by passages like this: "I forgot all about the slug gun. I went through the door at a run, launched myself at the figure from whom heat radiated like a tangible wall and saw it turn with unbelievable, split-second speed, throw up a hand—five glowing fingers outspread—take one darting step back—

"Long, pink sparks crackled from the outflung hand, leaping toward me. Like a diver hanging suspended in midair, I saw the harsh electric glare, heard the pop! as the miniature lightnings closed with me. . . .

"Then a silent explosion turned the world to blinding white, hurling me into nothingness." - pp 16-17

I've mentioned Laumer's similes & my liking for them & their similarity to those used by early to mid 20th century crime fiction writers in other reviews &, once again, Laumer gives me more choice material to quote:

"The room was dark, silent, dusty and vacant as a robbed grave. I used an old tennis shoe in my mouth as a tongue, grated it across dry lips, made the kind of effort that under other circumstances had won luckier souls the Congressional Medal, and sat up. There was a ringing in my head like the echo of the Liberty Bell just before it cracked." - p 17

The hero of Pt I, Brion Bayard, finds himself in a dramatically changed world: "Barbro was gone—along with every other living thing in the Imperial capital." (p 21) What cd've happened?! He "backed away, flattened [him]self against the wall, remembering, for some unfortunate reason, a kitten that Gargantua had been very fond of until it broke. . . ." (p 33) Whatever it is, it's nothing that a little Rabelais reference can't spice up.

How many people learn about things from reading bks or watching movies? I've never tried to start a car w/o having the ignition key but I know that, at least in older cars, it's possible to pull out the wires behind the ignition & touch them to each other to close the circuit that starts the car. It's called "hot-wiring". Laumer provides us w/ 2 instances of this:

""Slide over!" I pushed in beside him, feeling the vehicle lurch as the men crowded in behind me, hearing the sprang! as a shot hit the metal body. There were no keys in the ignition. I tried the starter; nothing.

""I'll have to short the wiring," I said, and slid to the ground, jumped to the hood, unlatched the wide side panel, lifted it. With one hand jerk, I twisted the ignition wires free, made hasty connections to the battery, then grabbed the starter lever and depressed it." - p 162

""Quick, Anglic!" he snapped. "The leads there—cross them!" I wedged myself in beside him, grabbed two heavy insulated cables, twisted their ends together. Following the agent's barked instructions, I ripped wires loose, made hasty connections from a massive coil" - pp 53-54

Ok, so what if the 2nd instance (in my ordering) is a hot-wiring of a parallel universe shuttle, it's all the same, right? Funny how, in the movies, the car thieves usually just bust off the place where you put the key to get at the wires. They make it seem so easy.

Less than a wk ago I wrote a review of Laumer's Timetracks. In my review of the story "Time Thieves" I noted:

"Laumer even goes so far as to put the shoe on the other tentacle to show humans as fratricidal monsters:

"""Hairless! Putty-colored! Revolting! Planning more mayhem, are you? Preparing to branch out into the civilized loci to wipe out all competitive life, is that it?"" - p 99"

Well, Beyond the Imperium explores the same theme:

""But only you sapiens have systematically killed off every other form of hominid life in your native continua!" Dzok was getting a little excited now. "You hairless ones—in every live where you exist—you exist alone! Ages ago, in the first confrontation of the bald mutation with normal anthropos—driven, doubtless, by shame at your naked condition—you slaughtered your hairy fellow men! And even today your minds are warped by ancient guilt-and-shame complexes associated with nudity!" - p 61

Shades of "Hairballs, Wigs, and Weaves for Skinheads": http://youtu.be/b08MlvL-60k .

Dzok is a hairy member of the hominid family. To his mind, kidnapping human babies & raising them in his own culture is a way of making them civilized. That's the same thing that arrogant people of European ancestry did w/ the aboriginals in Australia, the Stolen Generation. A despicable practice. Once again, Laumer's putting the shoe-horn in the other glove to make the reader aware of just how despicable such things are:

"["]Managed to get myself assigned as escort to a recruitment group—all native chaps, of course—"

""Native chaps?"

""Ahhh...Anglics, like yourself, captured as cubs . . . er . . . babies, that is. Cute little fellows, Anglic cubs. Can't help warming to them. Easy to train, too, and damnably human—"

""Okay, you can skip the propaganda. Somehow it doesn't help my morale to picture human slaves as lovable whites."" - pp 139-140

I don't know much, or anything, about Laumer's private life - such as whether he was married - & I don't feel like researching it at the moment, SO, I'll speculate that he was married & that that's a partial explanation as to why Brion Bayard is a married man faithful to his marriage even tho his wife has apparently ceased to exist & he's being helped under desperate circumstances by a fascinating woman:

"Sitting at the wobbly tables on the tile floors, often on a narrow terrace crowded beside a busy street, we talked, watched the people and the night sky, then went back to part at the flat door—she to her room, I to mine. It was a curious relationship, perhaps—though at the time, it seemed perfectly natural. We were coconspirators, engaged in a strange quest, half-detectives, half researchers" - p 116

A platonic relationship? That's a bit of a change in a Laumer story. It even stays that way after he finds that she's good w/ her hands: "Olivia was more than clever with her hands. I showed her just once how to attach a wire to an insulator; from then on she was better at it than I was." (p 121)

Laumer's thinking big w/ this one: "There was a paralyzing choice of cour[s]es of action open to me now—and my choice had to be the right one—with the life of a universe the cost of an error." (p 176) Imagine an epic SF novel in wch what's at stake is the life of a worm instead of the life of a universe. I'd read it.

Pt II starts off very differently than Pt I & features a hero named Johnny Curlon instead of Brion Bayard. Bayard plays a role but he takes a back-seat in the parallel worlds shuffle. &, yeah, there's even a broken-sword-to-be-brought-back-together-again-w/-great-effect thingie going on here. &, shucks!, Bayard's even in conflict w/ the Imperium!:

""Colonel, you're in considerable difficulty: absence from your post of duty without leave, interference with an official Net operation, and so on. All this will be dealt with in due course—but if you'll cooperate with me now, I think I can promise to make it easier for you."

""You don't know . . . what you're doing," Bayard got the words out. It wasn't easy; I knew what he was going through then. "There are forces . . . involved . . ."" - p 222

The problem is, you see, that ""Unless something is done now, at once, to reinforce the present reality, existence as we know it is doomed, Mr. Curlon."" (p 238) Do you ever have one of those days? But, I mean, what if reality-maintenance-traps were to disappear along w/ it? Wd we still be paying bills? Might not be so bad. After all, somewhere in all this mess:

"When we rolled into the outskirts of Londres, the town was carrying on some semblance of business as usual. The shops were open, and big canvas-topped buses rumbled along the streets, half full. We passed a big market square, lined with stalls with bright-colored awnings and displays of flowers and vegetables. At one side a raised platform was roped off. Half a dozen downcast-looking men and women in drab gray stood there, under a sign above the platform that said BULLMAN & WINDROW—CHATTELS. It was a slave market." - p 288

Once again, the parallel worlds story enables Laumer to mix together different periods. There's the slave market in London in the 20th century but there's also an elevator. It's not so unbelievable for the French to control England & for the same old, same old justifications to be used to excuse colonialism:

""Why not give the Britons their independence and save all that?"

"Garonne was wagging his head in a weary negative. "Milord, what you propose is, has always been, an economic and political fantasy. These islands, by their very nature, are incapable of pursuing an independent existence. Their size would preclude any role other than that of starveling dependent, incapable of self-support, at the mercy of any power which might choose to attempt annexation. A Free Briton, as the fanatics call it, is a pipe dream.["]" - p 292

& I like touches like the above so much that even the sword doesn't ruin it for me:

""Again, I underestimated you," he said. "Now I begin to understand who you really are, Plantagenet, what you are. But it's far too late to turn back. We meet as we were doomed to meet, face to face, your destiny against mine!" He lunged, and the False Balingore leaped toward me, and the true Balingore flashed out to meet it. The two blades came together with a ring like a struck anvil and the sound filled the world . . ." - p 311

This gives me a chance to quote a royal government website:

"The Plantagenet period was dominated by three major conflicts at home and abroad.

"Edward I attempted to create a British empire dominated by England, conquering Wales and pronouncing his eldest son Prince of Wales, and then attacking Scotland. Scotland was to remain elusive and retain its independence until late in the reign of the Stuart kings.

"In the reign of Edward III the Hundred Years War began, a struggle between England and France. At the end of the Plantagenet period, the reign of Richard II saw the beginning of the long period of civil feuding known as the War of the Roses. For the next century, the crown would be disputed by two conflicting family strands, the Lancastrians and the Yorkists.

"The period also saw the development of new social institutions and a distinctive English culture. Parliament emerged and grew, while the judicial reforms begun in the reign of Henry II were continued and completed by Edward I.

"Culture began to flourish. Three Plantagenet kings were patrons of Geoffrey Chaucer, the father of English poetry. During the early part of the period, the architectural style of the Normans gave way to the Gothic, with surviving examples including Salisbury Cathedral. Westminster Abbey was rebuilt and the majority of English cathedrals remodelled. Franciscan and Dominican orders began to be established in England, while the universities of Oxford and Cambridge had their origins in this period." - http://www.royal.gov.uk/historyofthem...

Bully!
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Started Reading
April 16, 2015 – Finished Reading
April 17, 2015 – Shelved
April 17, 2015 – Shelved as: sf

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