Friday, 24 October 2014

Greylorn by Keith Laumer, 1968

A very readable and enjoyable sf novella for Friday’s Forgotten Books at Patti Abbott’s blog Pattinase.

“Giving me your opinions is one thing, Kramer,” I said. “Mutiny is another.”

My search for a variety of ebooks in the public domain often throws up delightful surprises. Greylorn (1968), an sf novella by prolific science fiction author Keith Laumer, is one of them. It is also the best sf tale I have read so far this year.

The title of the story refers to Lieutenant Commander Frederick Greylorn, a courageous and enterprising military officer in the World Government on earth.

The planet is crawling with a plague, called the Red Tide, which has devoured most of the landmass except North America and a strip of Western Europe, and all of the sea. The alien organism has developed resistance to chemical and biological weapons and is evolving rapidly and is increasingly making earth a toxic dump.

As humans face extinction, Greylorn convinces the governing council to allow him to set out on a space expedition to seek help from a distant colony known as Omega World. With no assistance coming from the other established colonies, contacting Omega is the only option left. There is just one problem: it has never been explored before.

Into this alien and uncharted space, Captain Greylorn commands his mighty armed spaceship, Galahad.

Greylorn knows the voyage is fraught with high risk. What he does not know is the impending mutiny on board, which tests all his skills and resources to the limit and reveals the strength of his character in the face of adversity.

The rest of the story tells us how the brave officer overcomes the mutiny almost single handedly, successfully deals with a hostile alien vessel, and returns to earth with his mission accomplished.

I liked Greylorn because it was easy to follow. There is very little technical jargon though the author shows his superior knowledge in that area, probably the result of his tenure in the USAF. The all-male story is packed with action as Greylorn and the mutineers move rapidly from one time zone to another, one scene of action to another. The narrative is taut and the writing is clear. 

Keith Laumer (1925-1993)
© Wikimedia Commons
ManyBooks, from where I downloaded this ebook, says, “In this story (Keith Laumer) displays the finesse, artistry and imagination of an old pro. Here is one of the tightest, tautest stories of interplanetary adventure in a long while.” I agree with this assessment.

American author Keith Laumer has been described as “one of the best hardcore science fiction writers of all time, the master of time travel and alternate worlds” on the website dedicated to his memory. He is known for his Bolo and Retief series as well as time and space travel and alternate-world adventures like The Other Side of Time, A Trace of Memory, The Time Bender, The Long Twilight, Time Trap, Dinosaur Beach, and The Infinite Cage.

You can read more about the author here.

25 comments:

  1. I enjoy Laumer's work quite a bit. Haven't read this one, though.

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    1. Bill, I'll be reading all his works in the public domain though there aren't many of them.

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  2. Back in the 1960s Keith Laumer was my favorite SF writer. I loved his Retief stories and his action SF novels. Sadly, Laumer's work declined because of Alzheimer's and Dean Ing finished several books to provide Laumer with income in his last years.

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    1. George, thanks for writing about Keith Laumer and his work. I know almost nothing about him. I really liked this particular story.

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  3. I like Laumer. I really enjoy his Bolo tales and the spinoffs from that. I've read a story called "Greylorn," although I've heard there is more than one tale. I read a stand alone piece that I got from Amazon. It was good. As you say, very straightforward.

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    1. Charles, GREYLORN is as "straightforward" as a story can get. This is the kind of sf I like to read.

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  4. Well, this takes me back - been a long time since I read anythign by Laumer - I remember quite liking PAVANE but it's all a long time ago - thanks chum, never read this one and very nice to know it's being made available online.

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    1. Sergio, you conflate Keith Laumer and Keith Roberts (the author of PAVANE and a brilliant illustrator as well)...though Laumer in certain moods, such as with EARTHBLOOD in collaboration with Rosel George Brown, is not too far in effect from some of what Roberts wrote. Prashant...you might well wan to look for EARTHBLOOD!

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    2. Apologies Prashant (and thanks to the ever-vigilant Todd) -

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    3. Sergio, no problem. Keith Roberts is as new to me as Keith Laumer was until I read this story. Some of Laumer's stories are available online.

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    4. Todd, thanks for drawing my attention to EARTHBLOOD. I'll keep it in mind.

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  5. I enjoy Laumer's work. Good review.

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  6. Never read any of Laumer's work, but I do like the occasional time travel tale so maybe I need to look this guy up. Thanks for another terrific review, Prashant. You never know what you're going to find at Project Guttenberg. That's part of the fun.

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    1. Yvette, thank you. It was a nice story and I enjoyed it because I understood it. SF is not the easiest of fiction to follow. It takes getting used to.

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  7. Glad you enjoyed it Prashant. Despite having just read a sci-fi short story recently myself, I'll avoid. You can read them for me!

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    1. Col, be glad to. I don't read sf as often as I'd like to. I find them entertaining.

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  8. I'm not a sci-fi fan at all, but you do make this sound interesting. Nice review Prashant.

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    1. Moira, thank you. The characterisation is very good and I don't think I have read a story without women in it,

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  9. Classic stuff, and Laumer is well worth reading if one likes good old fashioned (as in late '50s and '60s) SF. I've read most everything he wrote, have several in pb on the shelves and used copies are available for those - like me - who prefer to read hardcopy instead of screen files.

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    1. Richard, that's the kind of sf I like reading. I'd love to get my hands on a few of these "old-fashioned" paperbacks.

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  10. You have definitely sold me, Prashant. I will download the ebook and read it during the Sci Fi challenge that I do every year. Thanks for reviewing this.

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    1. Tracy, you are welcome. GREYLORN is worth downloading and reading for it is more than an sf story. It is also a thriller with plenty of action. It is suitable for an sf challenge.

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  11. Never been a sci-fi fan but I enjoyed your review. I only hope it doesn't have a political agenda: The Red Tide standing for Communism et al. I have had enough of Communist bashing in NEITHER FIVE NOR THREE.

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    1. Neer, thank you. The ride tide in the story only refers to the plague infesting and devouring earth. I didn't get the impression that it could by related to communism, not even remotely. I'm not familiar with NEITHER FIVE NOR THREE.

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