Thursday, May 13, 2010

Book Review: 'Technos' / 'A Scatter of Stardust' by E. C. Tubb

 2 / 5 Stars
‘Technos / A Scatter of Stardust’ is Ace Double No. 79975 (March 1972). The cover artist(s) are uncredited.
‘Technos’ is another installment in British author Edwin Charles Tubb’s ‘Dumarest of Terra’ series which, as of 2008, had reached 33 volumes. In this adventure Earl Dumarest, in quest as always for information about Terra, his birthplace, travels to the planet of Technos and its eponymous city-state. Technos is police state ruled by a paranoid  character named Leon Vargas, who shares power with a scheming, morally decayed group of councilors. It’s not too long after his arrival on Technos that Dumarest begins clashing with the authorities, but his resourceful ways attract the attention of councilor Mada Grist, who offers Dumarest passage off-planet…in exchange for a minor bit of assassination…
As with the other entries in the ‘Dumarest’ series, ‘Technos’ is a competent, if not remarkably original, space-opera. Fans and followers of the series may want to have it in their collection.
‘A Scatter of Stardust’, the other half of the Double, is a collection of 8 of Tubb’s short stories, published from 1955 – 1966 in magazines such as ‘New Worlds’ and ‘Science Fantasy’.
‘The Bells of Acheron’ deals with a forest of unique crystals located on the planet Acheron; the prospect of visiting the forest has the first-person narrator in a melancholy mood. With its rather florid prose, and emphasis on emotional responses to otherworldly spectacles, the story is very much of a pastiche of a Ray Bradbury tale.
‘Anne’ deals with the distraught survivor of a space battle.
‘Return Visit’ is a deal-with-the-devil story, in this case, the devil being a demon from another dimension; the human who has summoned the demon may be a little too cocky for his own good.
‘The Shrine’ is another Bradbury -inspired tale; in the far future, scattered Terrans come together for spiritual sustenance on a remote planet.
‘Survival Demands’ is about a telepath who knows too much about alien civilizations.
‘Little Girl Lost’ sees a young man obliged to befriend a scientist suffering from a dangerous delusion.
‘The Eyes of Silence’ deals with enforced isolation, and one man’s strategy for avoiding insanity.
In ‘Enchanter’s Encounter’ an arrogant psychologist confronts a would-be urban wizard; there is a clash between science and magic.
All in all, Tubb’s stories are competent, and were deemed perfectly acceptable for the era in which they saw publication. However, they make clear the rather staid, even insipid, character of SF short fiction in the years just prior to the advent of the New Wave movement. It may have been that Tubb was willing to write material with a more edgy tenor, but the editorial restrictions of the magazines of the late 50s and early 60s may have made selling such tales difficult, if not impossible.

No comments: