Nebula Alert by A. Bertram Chandler (1967)

October 4th, 2009

I don’t know why I haven’t read more Chandler. 40 years ago, I read some of the Chandler stories that appeared in Ace doubles, but I have little recollection of them. Finding Nebula Alert as an ace double in an old collection of Science Fiction was a welcome surprise. I had no preconceived notions of what a Chandler story would be like and I really enjoyed it.

Nebula Alert starts slowly. I was worried in the early chapters that I had a hard read ahead of me. It’s almost as though Chandler has a checklist of all the things he needs to get done in the first chapter.

First, he sets the time and place, introducing the space ship before any of the characters. Next, he quickly introduces a dozen characters. I was lost and was afraid that I would not be able to tell them apart later, but this was not an issue. Then, he sets up the context of the conflict.

After he sets this all up – bang! The story jumps into a space yarn with a very nautical flavor. Chandler is very logical and orderly. You have to get the main stuff out of the way before you can start enjoying the adventure.

I won’t go into it, but there is a grand chase across space with some political back story and then everyone winds up in an alternate history. You would think this is a strange jump, but in the context of Chandler’s created world of the future, the Rim Worlds play an important role.

Chandler wraps a context around the book, while not necessary to your enjoyment of the novel, is a part of a grand adventure and this novel is only a small part of it. Being the first time (that I can recall) that I’ve entered the Chandler continuum, I was ignorant until I read a few web pages devoted to Chandler and his Rim Worlds.

This is actually the third story about this ship and its crew in Nebula Alert. I didn’t feel that I missed anything. I will, however, do a little research before I dip into the next Chandler novel. There must be an order to these stories that will enhance the reading experience. I have half a dozen more Chandler books in my collection.

Nebula Alert is not really a novel. It is only about 30,000 words long, which is why it is half of an Ace double. It reads easily and quite fast and I finished in two and a half quick bus rides across the Hudson river.

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