Review of The Rim of Space: The Rim World #1 – A. Bertram Chandler

Posted: October 9, 2017 in Review, science fiction
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They told Derek Calver that he’d find an odd bunch among the Rim Runners out on the edge of space: Refugees from the Interstellar Transport Commission from the Survey Service, the Waverly Royal Mail and the Trans-Galactic Clip¬pers, and so on. But Calver didn’t mind; he said he was a refugee from the Com¬mission himself.

He might have added that he was a refugee from Derek Calver, the mistakes he had made, the opportunities he had thrown away, the dreams that had been lost. And there, aboard the Lorn Lady, the worn-out obsolete ship that, like most of the others here, had once been a proud vessel of the inner worlds, he found Jane Arlen, who called herself “Calamity” Jane and avoided men for fear of the disaster she was sure she would bring them.

One of Jane’s first questions when she met Calver was: “Are you a happy drunk?”

When he said “no,” she continued: “Then you’re one of us. You’ll make a real Rim Runner, skimming the edge of eternity in a super-annuated rust-bucket held together with old string & …

Avalon Books (1961)

Reviewed by Jacqui

Among the better reasons for owning an e-book reader is that it allows you to access good old SF books which are long out of print. I’ve been meaning to read more of Chandler and thought I should start at the beginning, by re-reading his first novel. Now, while I do believe I do have a physical copy of The Rim of Space downstairs, itself quite elderly, I found the e-book convenient, especially when stuck waiting for medical appointments.

There is no doubt that The Rim of Space is quite old-fashioned in many ways. Chandler’s spaceships are classic rocketships, lifting vertically from spaceports. One of the adventures in this novel even involves a struggle to keep the Lorn Lady upright on planet in a storm. The crew is predominately male, except for “Calamity Jane” Arlen the Purser and Cook, and predictably our hero, Derek Calver, is male. But, that said, Arlen is no wilting pansy, she can stand up for herself. As does the novel. It is very much a sequence of episodes in the life of Derek Calver following leaving the Interstellar Transport Commission and the bright stars of the galactic centre for the Rim Worlds and the Lorn Lady. It should be simple classic pulp SF, but it isn’t.

First, Chandler’s background as a merchant seaman adds a realism rarely found in the pulps, not so much in the technology, but in the setting and in the ways people handle long voyages. Second, he has a fine talent for prose; the book reads very well. But most interesting are the insightful ideas slipped in here and there, sometimes well ahead of their time. Is it wise to sell technology to primitive cultures? What are the consequences? And then there is the rim ghost…

It’s great, rip-roaring stuff, science fiction of a by-gone era perhaps, but it’s still fun for a relaxing undemanding read, just what you need in that waiting room – just don’t expect too much political correctness…

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