Review: Odyssey

Odyssey - Keith Laumer

Odyssey is an anthology of science fiction stories written by Keith Laumer in the 1960’s.  This is the third anthology of his stories that I’ve read over the past couple of years and, as usual, my enjoyment level varied.  

The first story, Galactic Odyssey, took up about a third of this 576-page book.  This was the one I enjoyed the most, although it did have slow spots here and there.  The main character is homeless and penniless, trying to find shelter on a cold winter's night.  He crawls into what he thinks is a grain silo to try to get out of the elements and get some sleep.  However, this grain silo isn’t really a grain silo and, the next thing we know, our human friend is learning about alien life first-hand.  This starts off a series of adventures that were mostly entertaining, although sometimes they felt a little tedious.

The second story, A Trip to the City, was kind of odd.  I can’t talk much about the premise without spoiling anything.  This one kept me guessing, which made it fun to read.  It didn’t end up where I was expecting, and I was a little bit undecided on how I felt about that.  However, it had some really interesting themes about the nature of reality and blind acceptance of what we see around us and I did like that.

The last story, Dinosaur Beach, really got on my nerves.  It was a time travel story and at first I thought it was going to be quite interesting.  As the story progressed, it seemed like logical flaw was heaped on logical flaw, with a hearty helping of mumbo-jumbo, and lots of convenient discoveries to help the main character move on to the next stage in the story.  In the end everything was kind of explained in such a way that most of my original complaints probably were invalidated.  I wasn’t thrilled with the explanation, though, and it didn’t negate the annoyance I felt while reading the story.

The other stories held my attention well enough while I read them, but they weren’t particularly memorable.  I still haven’t quite made my mind up about Keith Laumer.  His writing can be quite good at times, but other times I have trouble getting through it.  I downloaded several of his books from the Baen Free Library a few years back.  I have two more unread anthologies, plus an omnibus of the first three books in his Retief series.  My experience so far has been that his longer stories are the ones I enjoy the most, so I’m hesitant to give up on him until I try the Retief omnibus.  On the other hand, that series has at least 15 books in it so the omnibus would have to prove very good to make me want to read the rest of the series.