tENTATIVELY, cONVENIENCE's Reviews > Secret Agent of Terra/The Rim of Space

Secret Agent of Terra/The Rim of Space by John Brunner
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A. Bertram Chandler's The Rim of Space
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - May 29, 2016


I read my 1st A. Bertram Chandler bk, The Anarch Lords, last mnth (“Taking the “Lords”.. ..out of Anarchy”: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/... ). I liked it enuf to write a fairly long review. Usually on the look-out for a new (to me) SF writer to immerse myself in the works of I've since collected quite a few Chandlers.

This is an Ace double, 2 SF bks in one - upside-down in relation to each other, one starting on one side, the other starting on the other. The Rim of Space is paired w/ John Brunner's Secret Agent of Terra. Ace typically reissued these shorter novels in longer forms under different names so they cd sell them twice. The added length is often just padding of little consequence. I already read the longer version of Secret Agent of Terra in its The Avengers of Carrig form so I didn't bother to read its earlier version.

SF writers are often employed in practical avocations that take some technical knowledge & their writing manifests this. Chandler was the Chief Officer of an Australian coastal steamer (according to this bk's intro blurb) & his bks are imbued w/ nautical knowledge turned interstellar. It adds an interesting authenticity.

I noted in my review of The Anarch Lords that "Grimes, Chandler's protagonist, does take the side of the 'idealist' anarchists who are, after all, just being pragmatic & fair-minded". I'm trying to read these Chandler bks in chronological order of publication. Grimes is a recurring character but this one features "Calver" & is, apparently, a pre-Grimes novel. I'm in the midst of reading my 5th Chandler novel as I write this review & it seems that having the protagonist be on a spaceship suffering from physical & psychological wear & tear is an ongoing theme:

"He looked up at Calver when he reached the deck, making the tall man suddenly conscious of his gangling height. He said, "You'll be the new Second, I'm the Mate, Maclean's the name. Welcome aboard the Forlorn Bitch." He grinned. "Well, she looks it, doesn't she?"

"The shook hands.

""I'll take my bags up to my cabin," said Calver. "I've seen enough of Port Forlorn to last me a long time so, if you like, I''ll do the night aboard."" - p 8

Calver goes out drinking w/ his fellow officers & gets a taste of each one's respective prersonalities-unveiled-by-alcohol:

""Are you a happy drunk, Calver?" she demanded.

""No," he said.

""Then you're one of us. You'll make a real Rim Runner, skimming the edge of Eternity in a superannuated rustbucket held together with old string and chewing gum, and taking a masochistic pleasure in it. You've run away from yourself until you can't run any further, and there's a sort of desperate joy in that, too. You don't drink to forget. You don't drink to get into a state of maudlin, mindless happiness; you drink to intensify your feelings, you . . ."" - p 13

Chandler writes like one-who's-been-there. Calver appears to be paving the way, character-wise. for Grimes:

""Mphm," grunted Calver noncommittally." - p 55

""That is the opinion of some of us, Your Excellency." And we've heard of you, of course. You're something of an Anarchist yourself . . ."

""Mphm?"

""I mean. . . . You're not the usual Survey Service stuffed shirt."" - p 30, The Anarch Lords

In fact, Chandler's novels have all the classic features of serials that I typically dislike - such as the same technical details central to the narrative. One of these is the telepath who uses a dog's brain as an amplifier:

"He found the Psionic Radio Officer out of his bunk, strapped into the swivel chair by the table on which lived the psionic amplifier, below which was the complexity of tanks and pumps and piping that handled nutrition and excretion. He looked with distaste at the gray, wrinkled thing in the globe, while his nostrils twitched at the imagined smell of dog. Like most spacemen, he accepted psionic radio intellectually but not emotionally. It was not the operator himself, the trained telepath, that he found revolting—although there were some who did—but the amplifier, the dog's brain tissue culture, without which it would've been impossible for human thought-waves to span interstellar distances. Revolting, too, was the way in which the majority of Psionic Radio Operators made pets of their organic equipment—rewarding it by visualizations of trees and bones . . ." - p 92

"watched Jane making for the shore with long, easy strokes. He thought, irrelevantly, Venus on the half shell, as she stood erect" - p 101

" Venus on the Half-Shell is a science fiction novel by Philip José Farmer, writing pseudonymously as "Kilgore Trout", a fictional recurring character in many of the novels of Kurt Vonnegut. This book first appeared as a lengthy fictitious "excerpt"—written by Vonnegut, but attributed to Trout—in Vonnegut's God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater (1965). With Vonnegut's permission, Farmer expanded the fragment into an entire standalone novel (including, as an in-joke, a scene that incorporates all of Vonnegut's original text). Farmer's story was first published in two parts beginning in the December 1974 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction." - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Venus_o...

A Google search for the above also yields images of Sandro Botticelli's painting "The Birth of Venus" (c. 1482) wch was most certainly not called "Venus on the half shell" since the latter is a food reference used for comedic purposes. Still, such are the vagaries of internet searches that Vonnegut & Farmer's parody has now rehistorified Botticelli. Oddly, Chandler’s reference here is in a bk published in 1961 - before Vonnegut & Farmer - so wassup?!

"He watched her appreciatively as she pulled on her shirt, climbed into her shorts. It was not prudery that had cause them to dress; it was the knowledge that to the natives, who themselves always went naked, all Terrans looked alike, could be distinguished only by badges of rank.

"The Mellisan waddled through the shallows, his sleek black hide gleaming in the sunlight. The necklace of gaudy shells around his long sinuous neck proclaimed him a person of some consequence. Calver thought that he was the Chief who had supervised the discharge and loading from the shore end, but could not be sure." - p 102

Of course, I find this sort of detail amusing & pertinent. As I've gotten older I've found myself remembering other people less & less. It helps, of course, if they have some extraordinary distinguishing characteristics - such as my own 3D brain tattoo on my head. However, what I've also discovered is that other people, particularly younger women, find it almost impossible to remember me b/c I'm not-of-the-age-they-mate-w/-&-am-therefore-of-no-interest-even-w/-the-distinguishing-characteristics.

Anyway, this bk was fine, I'm 'hooked' on the serial now, but it's hardly genius.
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Reading Progress

Started Reading
May 26, 2016 – Finished Reading
June 4, 2016 – Shelved
June 4, 2016 – Shelved as: sf

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