Book Review:  Planet Run – Keith Laumer and Gordon R Dickson (Berkley Medallion Books – 1968)

Despite having a cover that appears to feature a gargantuan tumour with a massive nipple on it, I decided to give this book a go.  

Captain Henry, an ancient space pioneer who has undergone life extending medical procedures is lured out of retirement by the corpulent and devious Senator Bartholomew of the Statistical Average political party (great name!).  Bartholomew wants him to go to Corazon, a planet that Henry has visited before but is seen as the last great frontier planet.

Henry agrees to go but only if Senator Bartholomew’s son Larry goes too.  Larry is the boyfriend of Henry’s granddaughter and Henry wants to make a man of him, the fact that he has the option to hold him hostage should Senator Bartholomew get funny ideas is an added bonus.

Corazon is to be divided up between the frontiersmen who enter a Planet Run, an old fashioned western ‘Land Rush’.  It seems strange that, in the future, land is apportioned based on a method previously used in Oklahoma in the 19th Century. However, this very point is made by Larry to which Captain Henry responds “You don’t tame alien worlds with busloads of bureaucrats.”  This is a rather neat way of explaining why a more civilised method is not used.

The Run itself is not subject to much scrutiny as far as sabotage and murder are concerned.  There are rules, but there are few referees to enforce these over the badlands of Corazon.  Men are killed and their vehicles blown-up with impunity.  

I was expecting this book to be a fairly straightforward ‘western in space’ story but suddenly found that Henry and Larry had discovered a warm oasis in an icy landscape.  They find alient bones and some kind of door, or portal.  It appears that Captain Henry has visited this place before.  This came as a bit of a twist in the story and made it more interesting.  I did wonder whether one of the authors had handed over to the other at this point as the difference in the narrative was quite striking.

After planting their markers, Henry and Larry have an arduous trek across icy wastes to register their claim.  Henry is captured and tortured quite gruesomely.  There is a happy ending however, Larry has proved his worth to Captain Henry and the two men have opened up a pathway to new knowledge and adventures.

This was quite an easy read, I was going to say ‘fun’ but you feel some of Henry and Larry’s pain during their ordeal to register their claim.  Enjoyable. 

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