_A Trace of Memory_, Keith Laumer's second novel, was originally serialized in _Amazing_ in 1962 and published in book form the following year. It was immediately recognized as a good science fiction adventure story by critics and readers alike.
What was not discussed-- at least, not to my knowledge-- were the Arthurian threads running through the novel. The enigmatic Foster is revealed fairly early in the novel to be the historical King Arthur, who abandoned the throne of England when his knights began to realize that he did not age. A number of the names of people and places are Arthurian. Foster's companion whom he buries is named Ammaerlin (Merlin); his home planet is Vallon (Avallon), and its capital city is Okk-Hamiloth (Camelot); the villainous despot of Vallon is Ommodurad (Mordred); and the identity that Legion adopts on Vallon is Drgn (dragon). There are other names of this sort that you may look up if you wish. I don't want to give away the ending of the novel, but I think that it is fair to say that the last few chapters draw heavily on Arthurian legend.
Laumer reinforces the Arthurian threads with a number of circle images throughout the novel: a notebook cover and signet rings embossed with two concentric circles... Stonehenge... the double orbits of the two planets in the Vallonian system... the rings on a tabletop in an ancient English pub... the great ring-boards of Okk-Hamiloth and Bar-Panderone... a sword embedded in a circular design in a castle wall... Collectively, they are reminiscent of the round table or of Excalibur-- of age, solidity, tradition.
Laumer also uses occasional musical images that reinforce the Arthurian tone of the novel. The hero, Legion, is a one-time music major. When Legion first stays at Foster's home, Foster is listening to the _Liebestod_. When Legion first enters the beautiful but empty city of Okk-Hamiloth, he plays Ravel's _Pavanne for a Dead Princess_ on the clarinet "and felt a forlorn nostalgia for a glory I had never known..." (109). But shortly afterward, when he is enslaved by a baser, more primitive civilization, he plays only tunes such as the _Beer Barrel Polka_ and _Little Brown Jug_. Laumer uses musical imagery to comment on man's nobility or lack of nobility.
Laumer also uses musical imagery to comment on Legion's character in one scene. Halfway through the novel, Legion has made his fortune on Earth. He is sitting on his island retreat smoking a fine cigar "and listening to the best music a thousand dollar hi-fi could produce" (76). It is an indication that Legion's concerns at this time are largely materialistic. He has not yet learned to to be more altruistic, to live for higher ideals.
It would be overstating the case to say that _A Trace of Memory_ is a retelling of the Arthurian legend. For one thing, Legion does not seem to be modeled on any Arthurian character. Indeed, through most of the novel, he is set up as a foil to Foster. He is more informal, more down-to-earth, more democratic, more practical, more witty. For another thing, the overall plot of the novel does not seem to rely heavily on any Arthurian legend. It is only at the end that the Arthurian references become obvious.
But if the novel is not a strict retelling of the Arthurian legend, it does seem to use Camelot as an ideal of chivalry and nobility that Laumer feels that most of mankind fails to obtain. It is also a goal toward which Legion unconsciously, almost against his will, strives. At the opening of the novel, he is a self-pitying vagrant contemplating robbery. At the close of the novel, he is a genuinely noble hero. Part of the fun is watching Legion change and grow along the way.