Retief's Ransom (Dobson science fiction) Paperback – 12 Dec 1975
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Another novel about Reteif.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
I personally like the earlier ones, the humor is more restrained and it sits better with Retief using his common sense smarts and his remarkable abilities and education to sort out things the hide bound CDT just does not understand. (It is a wonder that the CDT accomplishes half of what it does without Retief.)
The setting this time is Lumbaga-- a planet where the natives appear to reproduce by a kind of spontaneous generation. They are mad assemblages of organs that are highly individual. Attempts to classify them are driving the Corps Diplomatiques Terrestrienne computers into the verge of a nervous breakdown. They have a philosophy of pure anarchy coupled with a lust for violence and mayhem. The CDT has chosen to deal with them by (a) refusing to admit that they are hostile, and (b) attempting to impose a pacifistic democratic government on them. Naturally, this engenders more riots.
Enter Retief (whose last name is roughly "Fighter" spelled backwards), who begins to hobnob with the various natives and members and members of the underworld on their own terms. At first, the action (which, as usual, involves those rascally reptillian Groaci) centers mostly in the terran embassy. It is all fun to read about, but it is not the most colorful of settings.
But then the Groaci kidnap Ben Magnan, the embassy disavows him, and Retief sets out to rescue him. The setting becomes-- if not more exotic-- at least more bizarre:
A small wild creature resembling a disembodied blue eyeball with tiny bird feet hopped along a twig overhead, goggling at the Terran with an appearance of intentness heightened by the absence of an eyelid. A second free-lance ocular appeared, peeping from among glassy, needle-shaped leaves. Nearer at hand, another variety of local fauna-- this one a convoluted three-inch ellipsoid bearing a remarkable resemlance to an oversized ear-- perched in a froomble bush, pivoting slowly from left to right and back again as if tuning in on a faint sound in the distance. (40)
Shades of Hieronymous Bosch! The action moves from alien bars to pirate sloops to less than deserted islands to a cave guarded by a fearsome monster to a Groaci interrogation room (where a Lumbagan prisoner makes a monkey out of his groacian questioner simply by telling the truth) to the presence of a super-Lumbagan. Retief lights a Chanel dope stick, asks pointed questions, picks locks, and dispenses karate chops as the occasion demands. As usual, this is a passable balance of action space opera and political satire.
Laumer handles Retief competently enough in novel form. But as I have said in other reviews, the ideal length for a good Retief story is the short novelette. Cardboard characters don't matter so much in the shorter form, action doesn't become quite so repetitious, and much of the dialogue is a bit snappier (or at least a bit more memorable). Do yourself a favor and get some of the early Retief collections: _Envoy to New Worlds_ (1963), _Galactic Diplomat_ (1965), _Retief: Ambassador to Space_ (1968), and _Retief of the CDT_ (1971). The last immediately followed this novel.