D-99, H.B. Fyfe (1966)

October 15th, 2009

H.B. Fyfe wrote a whole series of stories and novels based on a future government agency known as the Bureau of Slick Tricks. D-99, the official designation of this top secret agency, is the title of Fyfe’s sixth novel about the strange crew.

D-99 is a Washington based group of bumbling eggheads, beautiful babes and overworked bureaucrats who are tasked with saving humanity from a universe of strange and often hostile aliens. The movie "Men in Black" is quite obviously a rip off of Fyfe’s vision.

Fyfe is gone, the copyright was not renewed on many of his stories and novels, and as bad as "Men in Black" was, this novel, D-99, was probably worse.

D-99 consists of alternating chapters. The main story line is about the Washington office of D-99 and the strange personalities that make up the Bureau. There were many characters, and I think that you had to have read the previous books in order to keep them straight. There seemed to be many inside jokes. I could not figure the motivations of the characters and they were all so loosely sketched that I could not keep track of who was who, or why anybody did anything. This plot seems to be about city power failure that has trapped everybody in a tall office building, but I never figured out why this was such a big deal or how it was resolved. Occasionally, the characters discuss the problem of rescuing humans from an alien world through the use of their slick tricks.

The alternating chapters are about the humans trapped by aliens and how the slick tricks play out. These are a little more interesting, but the slick tricks are not all that slick and the situations that the humans are trying to escape from are not that interesting. There is one situation, where a human is trapped by fish underwater in a kind of zoo exhibit. I must have skimmed over the solution to that one because I never found out how he escaped. I don’t think that I missed it, though; I think that Fyfe forgot to include it.

I think that Fyfe was a popular writer and appeared often in the pages of SF magazines of the 1950s and 60s. I can’t find anything about this life, though. All the bibliographies that I can find lead me to believe that the Bureau of Slick Tricks was his bread and butter. I can see how the concept would make for great short stories, but the novel was just too fragmented. It did not gel into a real plot and the fact that this was #6 in a long series of books did not help me as a first time Fyfe reader.

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