Friday, June 10, 2011

Forgotten Books: Recruit for Andromeda - Milton Lesser

(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.


George said...

I've always liked that EMSH cover for RECRUIT FOR ANDROMEDA. I'm a fan of Stephen Marlowe, too.

Richard R. said...

This one sounds like a lot of fun, and I agree with George about the cover.

What's on the flip side?

James Reasoner said...

The other side is THE PLOT AGAINST EARTH by Calvin M. Knox (Robert Silverberg). I'll be posting about it next Friday.

Jerry House said...

In another SF contribution, Lesser/Marlowe (along with Lester del Rey) provided most of the plot lines for the Winston "Adventures in SF" series of juvenile novels.

I've always found him to be very readable and enjoy him even at his pulpiest.

beb said...

I recall Milton Lesser as the author of one of the worst SF books I ever read, Stadium Beyond the Stars, part of the Winston juvenile series. I have trouble accepting the idea that he could be a decent mystery writer because of that.

Richard Moore said...

One of the first SF books I read was Lesser's Winston juvenile EARTHBOUND. I also read one of his later ones STADIUM BEYOND THE STARS and didn't care for it as best as I recall.

In reply to BEB: although I sometimes fall victim to the temptation, it is usually a mistake to dismiss a writer on the basis of one book and certainly not a juvenile in a genre he was abandoning.

It is the rare prolific writer who did not produce an occasional stinker.

Marlowe/Lesser produced many well-written entertaining novels.