Visions of Paradise

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Far Traveler

Far Traveler is the next A. Bertram Chandler novel in Survey Captain. It is actually a series of planetary adventures as Grimes, who was stranded on a “lost colony” at the end of The Big Black Mark, escapes possible court martial for his inadvertent role in the mutineers’ escape by becoming captain de jure if not de facto on the luxurious space yacht of a very rich, very arrogant woman who is a minor royalty on her home planet and insists on being addressed at all times as “Your Excellency.” She is also a researcher exploring lost colonies whose societies evolved, for one reason or another, out of contact with the mainstream of galactic life. Each planet they visit poses a problem for Grimes and the ship owner, and the ship intelligence, Big Sister, who is one of the major characters in the novel.

The worlds they visit include Far Haven, populated by drugged religious zealots; a world whose young inhabitants re-enact a centuries’ old battle between human invaders and the native humanoids (which, when Grimes realizes no humans remain on the surface, reveals who exactly were the winners in that ancient battle); and Morrowvia with its “underpeople” descended from genetically-enhanced cats and its North Australian setting, all of which reveals Chandler as a fan of Cordwainer Smith.

The individual stories are always interesting, tending to be mysteries in nature, some of which are solved by Grimes, but as often by Big Sister as well. Chandler never pushes disbelief too far,and is never predictable or boring. While these stories could never be classified with the likes of modern writers such as Stephen Baxter of Alastair Reynolds, they are always pleasant and worthwhile light reading, just the type of stuff I look forward to after a long, tired day of work.


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