Read The Lighter Side Online

Authors: Keith Laumer,Eric Flint

Tags: #Science fiction, #Adventure, #General, #Science Fiction - General, #Fiction, #Science Fiction & Fantasy, #Fiction - Science Fiction, #Space Opera, #Short stories, #Science Fiction - Adventure, #Science Fiction - Space Opera, #High Tech, #Science Fiction - Short Stories

The Lighter Side (56 page)

BOOK: The Lighter Side
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The Friend Who Conveniently Shows Up At Just The Right Time.

The Unknown Girl Who, For No Discernable Rhyme Or Reason, Saves The Hero.

Going Back To Square One By Having The Hero Get Bonked On The Head. Or the slight variant, used in
Galactic Odyssey:
Screw Up Royally. (Which, of course, usually results in the needed Bonk On The Head.)

And, always his favorite, which he borrowed—giving full credit, and in public—from the great detective writer Raymond Chandler:

When All Else Fails, Have Somebody Come Through The Door And Throw A Punch.

It's all very shameless. Oh, yes, indeed it is—and, for the public record, I hereby officially cluck my tongue.

I will also state—and also in public—that I couldn't care less. Mind you, when Laumer didn't
quite "hit it right," these plot devices have a tendency to stick out like sore thumbs. But when he did—which happens more often than not—the momentum of the story itself makes it all a moot point. Whining about the jury-rigged plot is like complaining that the drivers at the Indy 500 are racing at dangerous speeds. Or—gasp—that there is
gambling
in Rick's casino!

Well, yes—that's why you go there in the first place.

Probably none of Laumer's novels illustrates my point better than
A Plague of Demons.
Leaving aside every specific use of the device, the plot of the
whole novel
can be described in terms of the classic Raymond Chandler ploy:

Aliens—really nasty ones, too—come through the door and throw a punch.

Alas, they slugged the wrong guy. And we're off to the races!

And race it does. Like
Galactic Odyssey
and
Dinosaur Beach,
the pace of
A Plague of Demons
is that of Laumer at his best. It's the literary equivalent of running the rapids on a raft. Exhilarating, for those of us who enjoy such thrills. I will, clearing my throat, warn those who prefer a more sedentary tale to look elsewhere. Coupled together, the terms "sedentary" and "written by Keith Laumer" would be the silliest oxymoron ever invented.

I'm tempted to leave it there, but I fear my fellow Laumer fans would scowl upon me if I didn't also make the point that, when he wanted to, Laumer was quite capable of crafting a tightly-plotted and well-structured tale. And, indeed, in the very same
volume, you will find examples of such stories as well. Laumer's well-known "Thunderhead" comes immediately to mind. And so, for that matter, does "Doorstep"—a story which has what I think may well be one of the half dozen greatest closing lines in all of science fiction.

Enough. Afterwords also benefit from hoary plot devices, not the least of which is: End It.

Eric Flint

October 2001

 

 

BOOK: The Lighter Side
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