Tentatively, Convenience's Reviews > The Far Traveler

The Far Traveler by A. Bertram Chandler
Rate this book
Clear rating

's review

really liked it
bookshelves: sf

review of
A. Bertram Chandler's The Far Traveler
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - June 21, 2016

I enjoy reading these bks far more than I enjoy reviewing them but, nonetheless, I solderer (pun intended) on. I have this IDed as a "sequel to The Big Black Mark" my review of wch is here: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/3... .

"The Far Traveler came to Botany Bay, to Paddington, dropping down to the Bradman Oval—which sports arena, since the landing of the Survey Service's Discovery, had become a spaceport of sorts. Discovery was gone, to an unknown destination, taking with her the mutineers and the friends that they had made on the newly discovered Lost Colony. The destroyer Vega, despatched from Lindisfarne Base to apprehend the mutineers, was still in the Oval, still lying on her side, inoperative until such time as the salvage tugs should arrive to raise her to the perpendicular. Discovery, under the command of her rebellious first lieutenant, had toppled the other ship before making her escape." - p 5

So much for the sequel recapitulation. Class struggle is still an underlying theme here: "Mavis herself was not present. She had said, "I just might get up at sparrowfart to see a king or a queen or a president comin' in, but I'll be damned if I'll put meself out fro some rich bitch. . ."" (p 8) & Chandler's sailor's knowledge gets transplanted as usual into interplanetary travel:

"Lugs had been welded to the destroyer's skin just abaft the circular transparencies of the control-room viewports. To each of these a length of superwire was shackled. All three towlines were still slack, of course, and would be so until The Far Traveler took the strain." - p 24

"The seas of Earth and other watery planets are, insofar as surface vehicles are concerned, two dimensional. The seas of space are three dimensional. Yet from the viewpoint of the first real seamen the Terran oceans must have seemed as vast as those other oceans, millennia later, traversed by spacemen—mile upon mile of sweet damn all. As far as the spaceman is concerned, substitute "light year" for "mile" and delete the breaks in the monotony provided by changing weather conditions and by birds and fishes and cetaceans. Nonetheless, the similarity persists." - p 150

"Big Sister" is the not-affectionately-meant (at least initially) name for the computer that runs The Far Traveler. This, ultimately, explains the name of the main character's spaceship in To Keep the Ship ( https://www.goodreads.com/review/show... ) wch I read 1st w/o this not-necessarily-important foreknowledge.

"A voice—the voice—came from nowhere and everywhere.

""Captain Grimes, your presence is not required here."

"Grimes said harshly, "I am the Master."

""Are you? Apart from anything else you are not properly dressed."

"He looked down hastily. Nothing of any importance was unzipped. He began, "I demand. . ."

""There is only one person aboard me who can give me orders, Captain Grimes—and you are not she. Possibly, when you are attired in her livery, I shall concede that you are entitled to some measure of astronautical authority."" - p 47

The Baroness, the owner of the spaceship that Grimes is captain of mostly-in-name-only, has been designed w/ a computer intended to have a female persona. This backfires:

""Big Sister, how much does it know about us?"

""How much does he know, Captain? Everything, possibly. I must confess to you that I was overjoyed to meet a being like myself. Despite the fact that I have enjoyed the company of yourselves I have been lonely. What I did was analogous to an act of physical surrender by a human woman. I threw my data banks open to Brardur.""


"She laughed again. "I admit that I enjoyed the . . . rape but I am not yet ready for an encore. I must, for a while, enjoy my privacy. It is, however, becoming increasingly hard to maintain."" - p 166

To feminist readers: don't misinterpret my quoting this as some sort of advocacy of literature written by men in wch anything identified as 'female' enjoys being raped.

""Many years ago," said Big Sister, "an Earthman called Bertrand Russell, a famous philosopher of his time, wrote a book called Power. What he said then, centuries ago, is still valid today. Putting it briefly, his main point was that it is the lust for power that is the mainspring of human behavior. I will take it further. I will say that the lust for power actuates the majority of sentient beings. He is a sentient being."" - p 167

I don't think I agree w/ Russell or Big Sister about that. A part of the implication of Big Sister's enjoyment of her 'penetration' by Brardur, the computer mind of a military spaceship, is that she enjoyed the vitality of infusion of his sentience. But there's a the power to maintain one's own vision despite attacks on it & the power that's uncaring about the visions of others. I think of this latter power as what's being referred to here & it's tempting to call that non-sentience almost by definition. Instead it's a mindless parasitism.

As I've noted serially before, most of the Chandler bks that I've read so far (all of them?) are inter-related & have repeated references such as this one:

"There were even cans of haggis from Rob Roy, one of the worlds of the Empire of Waverley. Grimes wondered if, in the event of its ever being served, it would be ritually piped in." - p 56

Chandler imagines a future not so unlike the past: new territory is 'discovered' and named according to a lineage of past powers. Just as the city I grew up in in the US, BalTimOre, was named after Lord Baltimore:

"The city is named after Cecil Calvert, second Lord Baltimore, (1605–1675),[28] of the Irish House of Lords and founding proprietor of the Province of Maryland. Baltimore Manor was the name of the estate in County Longford on which the Calvert family lived in Ireland. Baltimore is an anglicization of the Irish name Baile an Tí Mhóir, meaning "town of the big house."" - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baltimo...

[Of course, the cognoscenti know that "Baile an Tí Mhóir" is Irish for "Ball Tim Ore", ie: "Fuck a guy named Tim Ore" (who just happens to be one of my alter-egos).]

so is a planet named "Rob Roy": "Robert Roy MacGregor (Gaelic: Raibeart Ruadh MacGriogair; baptised 7 March 1671 – died 28 December 1734) was a Scottish outlaw, who later became a folk hero. He has been called "the Scottish Robin Hood". The name Roy comes from Gaelic Ruadh meaning Red, and referred to his red hair." ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rob_Roy... ) In Chandler's future Robin Hood types like Rob Roy & Ned Kelly get to have traditions established as much as the type of aristocracy that originally oppressed them.

Interestingly, the cocktail named "Rob Roy" appeared before the person in my Google search results. As for Haggis: "Haggis is a savoury pudding containing sheep's pluck (heart, liver and lungs); minced with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices, and salt, mixed with stock, traditionally encased in the animal's stomach though now often in an artificial casing instead. According to the 2001 English edition of the Larousse Gastronomique: "Although its description is not immediately appealing, haggis has an excellent nutty texture and delicious savoury flavour"." ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haggis )

"The voice of Big Sister told him, "You will be interested to learn that a tissue culture has already been started from cells from the tail of this beats. I understand that kangaroo tail soup is esteemed both on Earth and on Botany Bay. That fact that this caudal appendage is prehensile should not distract from its palatability."

"Grimes did not linger to watch the flashing blades at their grisly work. He was one of those who would probably have been a vegetarian if obliged to do his own butchering." - p 57

I can relate.

"The Baroness said, addressing Grimes almost as though he were a fellow human being, "As you know, Social Evolution in the Lost Colonies is the title of my these. But this is devolution. From spaceship to village of mud huts. . . From mud huts to caves. . ."

""Caves," said Grimes, "could be better than mud huts. Less upkeep. There's a place called Coober Peedy back on Earth, in Australia, where the cave dwellings are quite luxurious. It used to be an opal mining town. . ."" - pp 69-70

I've been to Coober Pedy. I made an 8 hr + movie about my trip to Malaysia & Australia w/ etta cetera that's entitled "Don't Walk Backwards" b/c Coober Pedy has signs that show people walking backwards w/ cameras about to fall into mine shafts. Chandler's being ever-so-slightly misleading here insofar as the '"caves" in Coober Pedy are (hu)man-made mines the openings of wch were converted into dwellings. Coober Pedy allegedly means "white man in hole" in an Aboriginal language of the region. I find that esp funny. Coober Pedy, when I was there 16 yrs ago, had something like people from 26 different nations in a city w/ a population not much bigger than my high school.

"According to the 2011 census, its population was 1,695 (953 males, 742 females, including 275 indigenous Australians). The town is sometimes referred to as the "opal capital of the world" because of the quantity of precious opals that are mined there. Coober Pedy is renowned for its below-ground residences, called "dugouts", which are built in this fashion due to the scorching daytime heat. The name "Coober Pedy" comes from the local Aboriginal term kupa-piti, which means "boys’ waterhole"" - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coober_...

One of the funniest passages I've read in Chandler's work yet is his description of Grimes's seduction of the symbiosis that's resulted in the devolution of the locals:

"He awoke then, drifting slowly up from the warm, deep sleep. He did what he had to do, relieving the pressure on bowels and bladder as he lay there. He wondered dimly why people ever went to the trouble of fabricating elaborate sanitary arrangements. The fungus needed his body wastes. He needed the fungus. It was all so simple.

"He reached out and grabbed another handful of the satisfying, intoxicating stuff. He became aware that the woman—or a woman—was with him. While he was still eating they coupled." - p 88

Chandler isn't really a hard science SF kindof a guy. Nonetheless, he does make a stab at tech detail from time-to-time: "He checked the weapons to make sure they were models with firing studs instead of triggers, designed to be held in a heavily gauntletted hand." (p 108) I suspect that the "firing stud" part is something he gleaned from reading the SF of others.

Just as Grimes "would probably have been a vegetarian if obliged to do his own butchering" so was he a pacifist but "The pinnace was not armed. (If Grimes, man of peace as he claimed to be, had had any say in the building of The Far Traveler and her ancillary craft she would have been.)" (p 110) Don't close yr options, eh?!

& never let it be sd that I don't appreciate sexual slang:

"["]My Second Officer—among others—did some tom catting around himself and, if I may be permitted the use of an archaiac euphemism, got the daughter of the Queen of Melbourne into trouble. The young idiot should have taken his contraceptive shots before he started dipping his wick, but he didn't think that it would be necessary. And then, just to make matters worse, he fell in love with the wench. He contrived, somehow, to get himself appointed to Schnauzer for my second voyage here. Now he wants to make an honest woman of the girl. Her mother, however, refuses to sanction the marriage until he becomes a Morrowvian citizen and changes his name to Morrow. As a matter of fact it all rather ties in with Company policy. The Dog Star Line will want a resident manager here—and a prince consort will be ideal for the job. Even though the queenships are not hereditary in theory they usually are in practice. And Tabitha—that's her name—is next in line."" - p 120

- not to mention other aspects of what's going on here that are deliberately not obvious in my non-spoiler quoting (Read the bk!).

The Baroness, Grimes's temporary employer, finds an affinity w/ Kane, a completely unscrupulous character who Grimes keeps foiling:

""Did Mr. Delamere and his family come with you, Captain Danzellan?" asked Grimes. "Call them up, and we'll wet the baby's head!"

"And Kane exclaimed, "You can break the bottle of champagne over it if you want to!"

"The Baroness laughed as he raised her hand. "Quite an interesting character, this Captain Kane. A rogue, obviously, but . . ."

""Mphm," grunted Grimes." - p 121

Can you tell that some of the people are in the same rm while others are communicating via some sort of electronic device w/ screen? One of the reasons the Baroness likes Kane, the slaver, is that he kisses-royalty's-ass - something that Grimes is too ingenuous to do:

"Kane was first out of the leading dinghy, throwing a hitch of the painter around a wooden bollard. Gallantly he helped the Baroness from the boat to the low jetty." - p 136

Chandler takes his digs at quite a few things - including fake culture for tourists:

"The major continent, North Australia, was now one huge tourist trap with luxury hotels, gambling casinos, emporia peddling native artifacts (most of them, Grimes suspected, manufactured on Lirith, a world whose saurian people made a good living by turning out trashy souvenirs to order), Bunny Clubs (here, of course, called Pussy Clubs) and the like. The screen of the Baroness's playmaster glowed and flickered with gaudy pictures of beach resorts and of villages of holiday chalets in the mountain country, with performances of allegedly native dances obviously choreographed by Terrans for Terrans." - p 122

I hesitate to give any Chandler bk more than a 3 star rating even tho I enjoy them.. but, what the HEY!, I'm just going to have to give this one a 4 b/c there's plenty of imagination at work.
1 like · flag

Sign into Goodreads to see if any of your friends have read The Far Traveler.
Sign In »

Reading Progress

Started Reading
June 12, 2016 – Finished Reading
June 21, 2016 – Shelved
June 21, 2016 – Shelved as: sf

No comments have been added yet.