Tentatively, Convenience's Reviews > Zone Yellow

Zone Yellow by Keith Laumer
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review of
Keith Laumer's Zone Yellow
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - April 19, 2015

This is the 1st & only bk I've read of Laumer's written after he had a stroke in 1971. It was published in 1990. It's also part of a series that the last bk I read by him, Beyond the Imperium ( https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/6... ), was a part of. Since a stroke or some other disabling thing can happen to just about anyone, myself included, I was hoping that this bk wd display Laumer's pre-stroke verve or, perhaps, some new touches of special intelligence - but I wasn't expecting it.

Alas, it was ok but not really anything new. The diplomat in Laumer, the person willing to ferret out a sympathetic POV for non-humans, is still in evidence. Even tho his hero's particular parallel world is being invaded by giant rats who're taking people as slaves, he still manages to not resort to genocide as the 'solution'.

"and reminded him that our side didn't murder helpless POWs.

""Helpless, hell, sir! Begging your pardon!" Helm burst out. "I've seen the rats swarming into town, eating folks alive!"

""Nevertheless, there's a hospital here," I told him. "And we're going to take this fellow—a general officer, by the way"—I was guessing, but that red stripe meant something—"over there and see what they can do."" - p 48

Ahh.. mercy & self-restraint - remember those? When it was part of the US PR image (if not in reality) to promote such traits? Before George W. Bush & Condoleezza Rice declared torture to be ok?! Those were the days!

& Laumer manages to do a few small things w/ language: ""'Tzl,'" the thing corrected. Gan none of you mongs learn to speag corregly?"" (p 13) Otherwise, much of the bk seems like something a(n un)creative writing student wd 'correct' for their job at the publishers. I wonder how much trouble H. G. Wells had w/ publishers suggesting rewrites of his work? War of the Worlds, eg.

""No wonder these rats don't show any fight, Colonel," Helm said. "They're sick." He nodded, agreeing with himself.

""Times we saw 'em in heaps," he added. "It explains that. Say, Colonel," he went on, 'you s'pose it's like in that book: they caught some kinda disease here they couldn't handle?"" - p 49

The rat general speaks: ""It is the high privilege and manifest destiny of the Noble Folk to occupy and make use of all suitable planes of the multi-ordinal All,"" (p 56) Laumer almost seems 'old-fashioned' here. To someone like myself, such imperialist justification parody is easy to relate to. I wonder: how many younger readers even recognize it as such?

The parallel universe stuff gives Laumer a chance to be a bit more surreal & to explore human fears of the mutated body: "Helm had gone back to watching the horrors on the screen: a vast heap of pale-veined flesh now, with human limbs and heads growing from it like warts. He wanted to know how such monstrosities could be." (p 82)

&, like most sequels, Laumer references predecessors, such as Beyond the Imperium, just like I did earlier in this review. Are Keith Laumer & I the same person?: "a humanoid species called the Xonijeel; maintained their own Interdimensional Monitor Service" (pp 82-83) &, Olivia, in the same Imperium bk, was influenced by an Oz bk just like the young princess is here: ""I think it would be lovely to be a real princess," she told me. She looked warmly at Helm. "Candy told me all about a place called Oz, and about Princess Ozma. I want to be like her." (p 159)

Alas, Laumer's bubbling volcanic zest for similes ain't much in evidence. The 1st one I noticed wasn't until p 92: "I was furious with myself, first for being weak as American beer, and second for being not able to handle it." At least I can honestly say that American beer brewing has progressed in leaps & bounds even if all-too-little else has.

& newish ideas seem largely lacking but this tidbit caught my fancy in its revolving door & ripped it off of me: "As a wisp of fog shifted I saw a shape, something that didn't belong in that landscape: a boxy, ornately decorated coach that needed only four handsome black geldings hitched to it to make an appropriate equipage for a queen."

"There was a white-wrapped bundle on the seat. A wail came from it.

"Djäveln!" Helm blurted. "A baby!"

"I stepped across into the coach, the physical contact with our shuttle creating an entropic seal that held back the external environment. The pink halo rippled, but held. It was temporal leakage from the imperfect temporal seal. I picked up the soft, blanket-wrapped bundle and looked at the face of a baby Ylokk." - p 100

All in all, the whole danged thing was very Alice in Wonderoutlandish: ""You don't understand, Colonel," he told me in a voice that was tight with anxiety, or whatever it was tight with. "We are in a most perilous situation. To be candid, I have attempted an experiment. I have transferred us across the Yellow Line, into the zone of the hypothetical["]" (p 150) To be Candide is to be tight.
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April 19, 2015 – Shelved
April 19, 2015 – Shelved as: sf
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