Friday, September 23, 2011

Forgotten Books: "The Road to the Rim" and "To Prime the Pump" by A. Bertram Chandler

George Kelley featured the first Baen omnibus of John Grimes adventures a few months back, and I was intrigued by the notion of Hornblower in space. But, as is the way of such things, I promptly forgot about until recently, when Providence dropped it into my lap.

(OK, it wasn’t exactly Providence, I guess, it was Richard Robinson. And actually he just sort of handed it to me, but the effect was the same.) (And while I’m digressing, I might as well go the whole hog: I was touring the Robinson library with esteemed mystery author Robert S. Napier and Portland rock icon Brian Trainer when Richard took me aside and explained he’d been unlucky enough to accidentally order a duplicate copy of the book. Well, naturally, the gracious thing to do was to take it off his hands . . . ) (Anyway, thanks much, Mr. R.)

To the Galactic Rim collects the first three John Grimes novels (chronologically, anyway) and a collection of short stories. I’ve now read the first two novels, The Road to the Rim (1967) and To Prime the Pump (1971) and I’m well and truly hooked. Chandler’s writing has a charm that keeps things moving right along.

So far, the Hornblower connection is not as pronounced as I expected. When Horatio Hornblower got into a fix (which he did on a regular basis), he relied on wits and courage to get himself out. John Grimes, at this early stage of his career, just sort of goes with the flow, relying on luck to pull his fat out of the fire. I’m expecting this to change as the series progresses and he takes command of his first ship.

The Road to the Rim presents Ensign Grimes’ first venture into deep space, where he discovers that life on the rim of the galaxy is not as black and white as it was portrayed back in the Federation academy. And To Prime the Pump throws Lt. Grimes into a decadent society where he finds himself in way over his head.

Interestingly, the most Hornbloweresque behavior I’ve seen so far was in a story not told, but merely alluded to. At the end of To Prime the Pump, we get a brief summary of three adventures Grimes had after the main story concluded.

Here, complete in one paragraph, is a story that deserved a novel of its own:
There was the insurrection on Merganta, a bloody affair, in the suppression of which Aries did all that was demanded of her, but no more. Many of her officers and most of her crew felt more than a little sympathy for the rebels. It was Grimes, in command of one of the cruiser’s armed pinnaces, who intervened to stop the mass executions of three hundred women, wives and leading insurgents, turning his weapons on the government machine gunners. For this he was reprimanded, officially, by Captain Daintree, who, later, in a stormy interview with the planetary president, used such phrases as “an overly zealous officer” and “mistaken identity,” adding coldly that Lieutenant Grimes naturally assumed that it was not the forces of law and order who were about to commit cold-blooded murder.

More Forgotten Books at pattinase!


Deka Black said...

The story of a captain? seems interesting.

Charles Gramlich said...

I've read some of the stories in various places. Love these old covers.

Ed Gorman said...

Read a fair share of these in my teens. Chandler was a good craftsman.

George said...

Glad you enjoyed the Grimes stories! I've read the entire Saga and can recommend all the books in the series. Ed Gorman is right: Chandler was a craftsman of fiction writing.

Doug Levin said...

Be cautious about sharing these covers and titles with a Freudian.

Jerry House said...

As a working sea captain, Chandler brought that sensitivity to his writing, setting it apart from other SF work of the time. I've found all of his work engaging. At times I've felt I was reading the SF version of William Hope Hodgson and even Joseph Conrad.

Great stuff.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the tip of the hat, it was a nice visit and I was glad to unburden myself of that spare copy. Glad you're enjoying it as much as I suspected you would!

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