Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Dinosaur Beach by Keith Laumer

Cover is actually a good representation
of how muddled the story is
Appearing from the remote future, Nexx Central agent Ravel is emplaced in America, circa 1936. His mission: to undo successive tamperings of the time stream which threaten the survival of Mankind. He falls in love with a lovely, simple girl, Lisa, but in the midst of his happiness is called away to Dinosaur Beach.

Dinosaur Beach is a Nexx Central station located millions of years in the past, in the Jurassic Age. but shortly after Ravel's arrival, the station is attacked and destroyed, and Ravel begins a terrifying odyssey through time. For the attackers were another time-tampering team from still a different future era. And Ravel himself is not only in growing danger but the human world as we know it... -The (poorly written) back cover 

DAW Books UQ1021. Published 1971. 151 pages. 95c cover price.

Laumer starts Dinosaur Beach off strong with time-sweep agent Ravel abruptly awakening from a hypnotic state as a sleeper agent, which involved a happy marriage, to eliminate a rogue cyborg in the 'distant past' of 1936. Mission accomplished, our protagonist is zipped back to the Jurassic in order to have his memory wiped and a new personality laid over ita procedure Ravel is looking forward to since the wound from leaving his dear wife is still raw and painful.

Right around this point in the novel, which isn't too far in, I noticed the many this storys many inconsistencies. Granted, picking apart time travel yarns is a hobby in itself, particularly for the losers that flock to the SF genre (like myself). However, Dinosaur Beach had far too many to list in this little blog. E.g.: If Nexx Central is attempting to clean up numerous generations of abuse from the past, why destroy an anachronistic (for 1936) piece of technology like a cyborg, only to leave all of its parts for the natives to discover? Why are Nexx Central agents eating baby stegosaur and partying on the beach millions of years ago when their mission is to leave behind no trace? Laumer just doesnt make an effort to make the story logical, so after about 50 pages, I decided I wouldnt concern myself with paradoxes and plot holes.

Concerns about plausibility ditched, Dinosaur Beach becomes more enjoyable, but it still has its issues. A love story that takes up a good chunk of the book is tossed aside for a lukewarm 'twist' at the end, and the result is that the little emotional impact the novel was striving for falls flat. Likewise, the time travel itself takes us to very few exotic locales in favor of vague 'null spaces,' plus different variations of the titular beach that Ravel on which keeps finding himself stranded.

Im intrigued by the short story The Time Sweepers on which this novel was based, as I think Dinosaur Beach could be much more memorable if boiled down to a 30 page story about killing robots in the Jurassic. Maybe move the party to the Cretaceous so a T-Rex can crash it? Make that a cyborg T-Rex with lasers firing out of its little vestigial arms and now youre cooking with gas!

Altogether, this ended up being a filler week. Sorry guys!

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