(This post originally ran in slightly different form on November 2, 2005.)
This short novel was originally published in the July 1953 issue of the science-fiction digest IMAGINATION, under the title “Voyage to Eternity”. It was reprinted six years later as half of Ace Double D-358 as RECRUIT FOR ANDROMEDA. By the way, I think the magazine title is much better than the book title.
The plot won’t contain many surprises for anybody who has read much science-fiction. Approximately every two years, a certain number of healthy young males between the ages of 21 and 26 are selected in a national lottery and drafted to serve in some top-secret project. Supposedly a system is in place to rotate these men back out of the service, but in reality they all disappear and none of them ever come back. This has led the public to dub the project the Nowhere Journey (which also would have made an okay title). Unknown to anyone in America, the Communist empire in Russia has a similar project going on. Lesser cuts back and forth between an American draftee and a Russian one, and you know they’ll wind up butting heads sooner or later. Bit by bit, the reader is let in on the secrets of the Nowhere Journey, and everything finally comes together in a slam-bang space battle.
I’ve been aware for a long time that Stephen Marlowe, the author of the Gold Medal series about hardboiled private eye Chester Drum, was really Milton Lesser and that he started off writing science-fiction. Only in recent years, though, have I actually started to read some of Lesser’s SF and found out just how much of it he really wrote. He consistently turned out smooth, entertaining prose no matter what the genre, and that’s the case in this novel. Interestingly, there’s a little story-within-the-story in this book that echoes some of Lesser’s Gold Medal work as Marlowe. Although dated and fairly predictable, RECRUIT FOR ANDROMEDA is worth reading.
The cover of the Ace edition is by Emsh.