Retief to the Rescue — Review

Science Fiction & Fantasy Review, No. 13, April 1983, p. 33.

Laumer, Keith. Retief to the Rescue. Timescape/Simon and Schuster , February 1983. 237 p. $14.95. ISBN 0-671-45099-7.

Over a twenty year span Jame Retief, ace troubleshooter for the Corps Diplomatique Terrestrienne, has provided science fiction readers with an entertaining introduction to diplomacy. Though set in a future galactic federation, Laumer has used Retief’s adventures to poke fun at American, British, and Soviet diplomatic practices. Eight collections provided dozens of compact, funny stories illustrating various aspects of statecraft, and three novels offered lengthier, somewhat more serious studies of very real problems. Under the circumstances, Retief to the Rescue, a new novel, should have been a “must read.” Sadly, it is instead something to avoid.

Sent to the planet Furtheron, Retief must overcome the inept efforts of his superiors, the disinterest of the natives, and the active opposition of his old foes, the Groaci and their Bogan allies, to end an age old war. Capable as ever, Retief discovers the war is actually nothing but a–believe it or not–geologic misunderstanding, and he promptly puts an end to it. An overly long and drawn out series of hostage crises, occupying most of the book, takes some of the snap out of the story, but there is still a reasonably decent novel buried in there somewhere, struggling to get out.

What kills the book are the opening and closing passages. An earlier Retief short story, “Truce or Consequences,” has been split in two and, inexplicably, tacked on as the first and last chapters. The novel is not an expansion of this story, which has literally, nothing to do with the current work. As a result, the reader is presented with two settings, two plots, and two resolutions, and could not be more confused had pages from a gothic romance been inserted at random.

“Truce or Consequences” prior publication in both Retief: Ambassador to Space (Doubleday, 1969), and Retief: Diplomat at Arms (Timescape/Pocket, 1982), is not noted. Readers are urged to investigate either collection, or any other Retief tale. — Lawrence I. Charters

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