A stand-alone sci-fi book.
Publication year: 1956
Format: ebook, pdf
Page count: 94
Lorenzo Smythe, “The Great Lorezo”, is an actor down on his luck. But then he meets a space pilot, or a voyager as they’re called, in a bar. The pilot, Dak Broadbent, says he might have a job for Smythe and they meet at Broadbent’s hotel room. But the job offer turns out too strange for even Smythe’s tastes: to impersonate someone, but the spacer won’t tell him who. Initially, Smythe turns the offer down but then a human and a Martian come in the door and start shooting. Smythe helps kill them and then covers the whole thing up with the pilot. Smythe tries to run away but Broadbent essentially kidnaps him and they’re off to Mars. It turns out that Smythe has to impersonate a powerful politician, Bonforte, who leads the Expansionist party and wants full rights to Martians.
The first person voice works well even though Smythe is quite full of himself – or perhaps because of it. Unfortunately, some things haven’t aged well: all the politicians are male and apparently only males vote; there’s a line about promising two women to every voter. They also have an Emperor who has mostly a ceremonial office. The whole book has only one female character; she’s an assistant. Also, files are stored on physical microfilms which take a lot of space, and people use slide rules.
This world has native Martians and Venerians (in Venus). The latter is only mentioned and the Martians are seen only briefly. Apparently, they aren’t on equal standing with humans; that’s one of the main issues in politics.
Politics is at the center of this tale. Bonforte seems like an honest man who wants to do good and so he has a lot of enemies. In fact, Smythe seems the opposite of Bonforte: arrogant, full of himself, and xenophobic. He gets to know the people around Bonforte and they, too, seem a nice bunch.
This was a quick and light read. The plot moves along at a brisk pace.