While the book is a bit of a hodgepodge of other story ideas, it is quite entertaining and author Ted White has some interesting takes on those ideas. Essentially this is like Arnold from The Terminator being sent out to explore and catalog a classic “after the fall” world where most of the world’s population died and those few remaining descended back into barbarism after some event known only as The Chaos. As the book progresses and our character, who is supposed to be a blank slate, begins to remember his life before. The truth of what’s going on and what The Chaos really was is unexpected.
Apparently this book is actually a sequel of sorts. Tanner, the narrator and protagonist was also the lead in a book called Android Avenger, one side of an Ace Double. You don’t need to have read that book to get this one, however. I’m thinking about tracking it down, though (it is available as an ebook). Again, he begins the book as a clean slate, his memory supposedly having been scrubbed by his computer-creator. That’s not a spoiler, the computer tells him as much in the opening scene.
Having just read The Yngling, a book that’s also about an ultra-strong hero in a post-apocalyptic world, it’s interesting to see how much better Ted White handles things in this book than John Dalmas did in his. Though Tanner is an almost unkillable, super-powered android, he never comes off as blandly perfect. And he doesn’t feel like an author stand-in, a so-called Gary Stu (male Mary Sue). He’s flawed. He makes mistakes. He needs to learn things.
It’s weird reading books from the late 1960s, knowing if it came out today it would be like 500 pages instead of 175, yet there wouldn’t be any more to the story. I miss the efficiency of storytelling that was so common (and in fact demanded by publishers) from this time. Sure, I could have dealt with the back half of the book having another 50 pages or so, to go into the various little adventures. But I didn’t need them. The book didn’t need them. So they’re not there. It’s a very tight 175 without feeling rushed.
Nothing too deep or profound here, but it’s an entertaining, fast read with some nice twists on genre tropes.