BOOK REVIEW: End As A Hero, by Keith Laumer

Rating: 3 out of 5.
  • A standalone novel
  • Published by Ace Books
  • Published in 1985
  • Pulp Space Opera
  • 150 pages

In the deepest reaches of uncharted space, an ancient force has awoken. Known as the Gool, this force reaches into the minds of passing spacefarers. All those who suffer from its touch are driven utterly made. All save one . . .

At only a hundred and fifty pages, the content of the book itself will be rivalled in length by any review. As you can imagine, a book of such short length (it’s only three chapters), is very difficult to talk about without simply recapping the events of the story. This is especially hard for a book like End As A Hero, in which nothing really happens for a long while, and then everything happens at once. In spite of all this, I’m going to give it a go. Because this is a book, and I am a reviewer.

One of the things I do know about Keith Laumer is that he had a fairly lengthy career, interrupted by a serious stroke. End As A Hero was written after that stroke, and while it’s not as strong as his work prior to the event, it’s still perfectly readable. There are some stylistic choices that may be related to lasting medical trauma, or may be Laumer’s own decision. Most of the stylistic issues are almost charmingly pulpy. The only one that throws me out of the narrative is the sudden shift from third person to first person for the final act of the novel. An act, it should be said, that is also an abrupt left turn into spy thriller following two thirds of space adventure.

I’ve used the word ‘pulp’ twice in this review now (and many times in the past), and I want to make something clear. I don’t mean this as a pejorative. I could write an entire article about literary labels, but when I say pulp, I don’t mean to imply a lack of quality. To me, pulp is about a certain style. A sparseness of prose. A directness of narrative thrust. Larger than life characters and simple storytelling. Maybe a lurid description or two for good measure. And yes, pulp usually means something is quite short. Not every book has to sprawl for hundreds of pages, but not everything below that is a novella. A pulp novel exists somewhere in between. It’s a vanishing art, but one that still deserves its moment in the sun.

Short, direct, and more than a little bit bizarre, End As A Hero isn’t Laumer’s best work, but it’s still a fun read if you have a day to spare.

If you enjoyed this book, you might also like:
Fury, by Henry Kuttner
Star Colony, by Keith Laumer
Gateway, by Frederik Pohl

Published by Alex Hormann

I'm a writer, reader, and farmer, with an interest in all things speculative.

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