by A. Bertram Chandler, © 1961 (first published in story form 1959, in Astounding Science Fiction as “To Run the Rim”)
Avalon Books 1961 hardcover. Science Fiction, part of the author’s Rim of Space series
This is the 53rd in my series of forgotten books.
At this point in Chandler’s Rim saga, the Rim Worlds are still part of the Federation. First Officer Derek Calver leaves a large commercial liner company, Shakespearean Lines, at Port Forlorn and signs on as Second Mate of Lorn Lady under Capt. Engels. He meets Jane Arlen, catering officer, and they start a relationship. His first tour takes him to Faraway, where he meets Sonya Verrill, Federation Secret Service operative. Verrill is looking for information about the possible defection of the Rim Worlds from the Federation to form their own alliance. Calver is too new to know anything about that, but still must be pulled from the encounter by another officer of the ship.
Next, Tharn, where First Mate Maclean is killed; and Calver moves up to First Mate. Grollor next, where Verrill and her brother, still convinced Calver knows something important, attempt to shanghai Calver. However, he is freed and they are arrested.
En route to the planet Stree, the Lorn Lady encounters a Rim Ghost; a rare phenomenon showing both the present and future merging as if in a mirror. The vision reveals that Calver will one day pilot a ship called Outsider, with Jane at his side. On to Mellise, where Lorn Lady is nearly destroyed in a hurricane. Capt. Engels perishes, leaving Calver in command. Then en route to Mellise, a distress call is received via psionic radio from Thermopylae, falling in degrading orbit towards the volcanic planet Eblis, where the luxury liner was providing wealthy tourists with the spectacular view of that burning planet. Lorn Lady manages to rescue the Thermopylae but is destroyed in the process, though the crew is saved. As a result of salvage laws, Calver believes he will be handsomely rewarded and will in fact get the ship the Rim Ghost showed him.
This Avalon edition of The Rim of Space contains a couple chapters missing from all subsequent editions. Hopefully someone will publish another unabridged edition again one day. The author returned to the Rim a year after this was written with “When the Dream Dies”, also later expanded into the third Grimes novel.
This is pretty typical adventure space opera for the day. Here’s a review from 1962:
“Entertaining, relatively well written, good ideas though perhaps a little too much use of dues ex machina to get our hero out of dire problems. This novel, developed from a novella, is more like older science fiction with little social criticism or insights. This is just good old-fashioned entertainment.” – WCR
That pretty much sums it up, though I didn’t see all that much in the way of saving miracles. Fun stuff. I’m looking forward to reading the John Grimes novels which Baen is currently republishing.
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For more Friday Forgotten Books, this week see George Kelly’s blog.