Review of Legions of Space by Keith Laumer
Two complete novels, and a host of novelettes fill a large volume by the master of science fiction adventure. In the first novel, “A Trace of Memory,” a drifter named Legion is hired by a millionaire who claims to be centuries old, but has nearly complete amnesia. He can only remember that “something “is hunting for him, and Legion’s job is to protect him. The job turns out to be more than Legion bargained for when he finds himself and his employer on a prehistoric starship hurtling into the unknown. In “Planet Run,” Laumer joins forces with SF legend Gordon R. Dickson in a novel of two ancient heroes who are going to trade the rest of their lives for one sweet year, and the chance to solve the secret of the last unexplored planet in this sector of the galaxy. Plus four short novels of exciting interstellar action and adventure. With an introduction by Joel Rosenberg, author of the best-selling “Guardians of the Flame” series.
A Trace of Memory was first published as a serialized story in Amazing magazine (July–September 1962) and then reissued as a novel by Berkley in 1963.
Planet Run was first published in 1967 by Doubleday.
“The Choice” was first published in Analog in July, 1969.
“Three Blind Mice” was first published in The Many Worlds of Science Fiction (Ben Bova, ed.), E.P. Dutton, 1971.
“Mind Out of Time” was first published as “The Mind Out of Time” in The Farthest Reaches (Joseph Elder, ed.), Trident 1968.
“Message to an Alien” was first published in Analog in June, 1970.
A TRACE OF MEMORY – I read this story many years ago, back when I was in either junior high or a freshman in high school. I remembered enjoying it, but didn’t remember the name of it, who wrote it, or many of the actual details, just the overall plot and a couple of scenes. Thanks to the Baen Free Library and promotional CDs I found it again. Still an enjoyable story after all these years, but not quite as strong as I remembered it. For one thing, no women. In the entire story the only females that make an appearance are waitress in Miami who gets two mentions, and a girlfriend in Chile who is in about 5 pages. That’s it. Still, a romping adventure across space, with good pacing. Legion is the only well defined character, it’s a tale about his moral redemption more than about what Foster goes through. The body regeneration reminds me of some other stories, including PLANET RUN in this collection as well as Bruce Sterling‘s Holy Fire. Legion continually gets exceptionally lucky, and even he remarks upon it in the story. novel 4 stars
THE CHOICE – a completely over the top story of first contact between a small human exploration vessel and an intelligent machine. This would have fit in with Douglas Adams‘ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. It was funny and fun, but not really filling. short story 3 stars
THREE BLIND MICE – A story of first actual physical contact with an alien species humans have been at war with combined with an arctic survival story. Not bad, I liked the concept of the alien and it’s drones. But not a great story either, left me wanting something more indepth while at the same time I just wanted to push through so it would end. short story 3 stars
MIND OUT OF TIME – Meh. I didn’t care for this story all that much. It reminded me a little of the end of the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey where Bowman just living out his life, but time doesn’t seem to be a constant. The astronauts remind me a little of what I’ve read about the old X-Plane test pilots, but even more reckless. short story 2 stars
MESSAGE TO AN ALIEN – I rather liked this one, even if the story of disgraced leader redeeming himself has been done over and over again. The little twist on WHY he did things the way he did was a nice touch. short story 4 Stars.
PLANET RUN – Possibly the best of the stories in this book. At first it appeared like it would be a little disappointing, but it got interesting and stayed pretty interesting. Captain Henry is the only well developed character, and it’s told through his eyes. Larry grows on you as he matures, but it takes awhile. Wilderness survival story combined with a little political intrigue and discovery of alien artifacts. I was slightly surprised by where the jewels came from. This would probably make a pretty decent movie. novella to short novel length 4 stars.
The eBook was formatted well with only one noticeable spelling error. Thanks to the Baen Free Library and promotional CDs.