- Mass Market Paperback
- Publisher: Ace (1977)
- ASIN: B002KPH1IW
- Average Customer Review: 9 customer reviews
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Who Goes Here? Mass Market Paperback – 1977
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Mass Market Paperback
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Author Bob Shaw had a gift for setting up high concepts and then poking them around like a piñata. In this case, the concepts are two, neither original: Time travel and lost memory. Warren Peace wakes up to find himself on a chair, having just been subjected to "engram erasure." It's all part of the bargain when you sign up for the free process courtesy of the Space Legion. You give up your freedom, and the Legion removes things in your past you want to forget. Then they take custody of what's left and send you around the galaxy fighting ethically dubious and unwinnable wars for consumer products like cigarettes and shrimp sauce.
Only Peace can remember nothing at all of his past before waking up in that chair. As he is told more than once: "You must have been a monster."
Having set up that smart concept, the novel builds quickly. Peace tries to piece together his past with growing urgency as Legionnaire duty becomes ever more comically hazardous. One early engagement involves an enemy so pathetic that it uses mere projectile weapons against the Legion's lasers. A small caveat: lasers don't work because of this planet's smoky atmosphere. No matter, a commander enjoins his restless troops: "Can you imagine the daunting psychological impact of seeing proud Terra's warriors marching line abreast and unafraid into the mouths of the cannons?"
One comic idea Shaw sets up again and again is the depressingly mundane nature of the future. Peace is outfitted not in zero-G combat gear but a hound's-tooth sports jacket and athletic supporter. Space travel consists of sitting in an ugly metal box which is disintegrated and reintegrated across vast distances of space in seconds. About the only non-quotidian thing are the strange metal creatures known as "Oscars" that seem to trail Peace around space, red eyes glowing menacingly with hidden meaning.
The first time I read this book, I was 12 years old and looking for something like "Star Wars," which had just come out the prior year. "Who Goes Here?" was brand new in paperback then, and Dad, who bought it for me, must have thought it was what I'd want. The cover showed a spaceman in a dark forest being menaced by a giant worm, promising much mayhem within. Needless to say, I was pretty surprised when I started reading. "Who Goes Here?" is, if anything, the anti-"Star Wars." Still, I was immediately hooked. So much for laser battles; it turned out there was more than one way of having fun in space.
Reading it again, I have to say I am for the most part quite impressed at how well the book holds together. The humor is of the Benny Hill variety, people chasing each other a lot, but it works very well in context. The only minor disappointment is a time-travel interlude involving a mad professor that, while clever and entertaining, isn't as integrated into the rest of the plot as it should be. Also, the ending is on the abrupt side, though back when I was 12 I remember enjoying that part especially.
I can't guarantee you'll love "Who Goes Here?" as much as me, yet I do believe you will find it both accessible and entertaining. Shaw once said he wrote science fiction for people who don't read science fiction, yet I think even a sci-fi purist will find pleasure in the wit and simple human quality contained here.
(How on earth could I NOT take it out and read it?)
Having no idea whatsoever what it would be about, I started chuckling about page three, and never stopped until the end--although I "sniffled" a little at the twist conclusion. I later got to meet this author, which was another thrill in and of itself.
Since then, I've read everything he'd ever written, and was so sad to learn of his passing. I'm completely surprised that none of his novels made it to a movie (although Shaw told me of the embarrassing event, wherein Stanley Kubrick phoned him in Britain, apparently to discuss exactly that, but that Shaw wouldn't believe it was really Kubrick--and instead some dorky friend putting him on. After awhile, the caller got disgusted and hung up!)
Keep your eye out for his novels incorporating "slow glass." And DO NOT let this one pass you by!