The ninth book in the Dumarest of Terra series, this volume both defies expectations and functions as a minor reset for the story. E.C. Tubb managed, at least as far as I’ve read so far, to tell interesting, often moderately complex Science Fiction adventure tales, all featuring an overarching narrative, yet individually being quite unique. There is a formula here. Dumarest shows up, things get messy, some agent of the Cyclan is up to no good, then Dumarest gets away. I suppose in that sense, Mayenne is “just another episode.”
What I enjoy about these novels, however, is that getting from the start to the finish is never a straight line. At least to this point, he hasn’t really repeated himself. In just over a hundred fifty pages, we get what feels like the set-up to an Agatha Christie style tale, then it takes a turn into a Jack London type survival story, and finally when the real meat of the book hits, it’s something totally different, bordering on Edgar Rice Burroughs or C.L. Moore. Heck, the book even has a couple of twists in the last few pages that really took me aback.
This is not my favorite entry in the series so far. Yet, it’s not boring. It’s very entertaining. When I saw it functions as a bit of a “reset,” I mean that the series was, over the previous couple books, starting to feel like it was building to a finale. I know, from the vantage point of reading it in 2022, that the series would go on for twenty four volumes. So I was starting to wonder how that would play out. Yet, by the end of this book, Tubb has found a way to get out of the corner he seemed about to paint himself into. I don’t know where it’ll go next, but suddenly there’s some breathing room.
If you’re a fan of adventure novels and like some quick, yet moderately gritty Science Fiction, this is a great series. In this day and age, when you can get digital copies of the entire series, there’s really no reason to start with this ninth book, however, I think it would have functioned fairly well as a jumping off point for a new reader back in 1973. There is some “of its time” chauvinism, but compared to some other books I’ve read from the era (Colin Wilson, I’m looking at you!), it’s positively progressive. Check these books out.
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