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Reread somewhat juvenile Dinosaur Beach, which I enjoyed as a kid/teen

I was wowed by Keith Laumer's Dinosaur Beach in my early teens, and have been curious whether I would still enjoy it as a much more advanced-in-years adult. It was definitely a mixed bag, but I'm glad I reread it both because I did enjoy aspects of it, and it is pretty interesting to see what held up to more informed attention, and to identify it. (Hence this blog entry... (-: )

Some of what I say below might constitute spoilers. But I think what I reveal is in such general terms that I think they might make up for the surprise of their presence with curiosity about how the delivery of the revealed items were implemented. None the less, still spoilers.

My reservations with this book are of the sort that pulp novels generally suffer - shallowness in characterization and connection, and particularly endemic to science fiction, shallowness in the science.

I think the latter - specifically, shallowness in time travel theorizing - was not contrary to Laumer's purpose and style. I do not think he was or intended to be serious about time travel theorizing. Rather, that theorizing was more of a playful game, one that provided a backdrop for the thing that I think was so compelling for me as a young reader, and one of the main things I actually enjoyed while rereading it now: intricate layering of "wheels within wheels" plotting that I feel is inventive and intriguing. To a degree.

So here's two things I can identify that I enjoyed:
  1. Laumer actually achieved surprising twists in what could have been monotonous layering of forces at work. In particular in the denouement, the agents of the deepest layer did something that the other layers did not, in a way that was foreshadowed but still evocative and thought-provoking.
  2. Some of the extremely isolated and distinctive scenes – like various ends of time including Dinosaur Beach or successively more remote futures, or disconnected time pockets – had some visceral and poetic substantiality. (Like another obscure but evocative and favorite old sci-fi read, Gordon R. Dickenson's Sleepwalker's World, much of the action happens in isolated twilight of one sort or another, and I find a kind of appealing quiet in the read, even though in these books it's often intended to be ominous or just full of outright duress...)
In its perfunctory characterization and silly theorizing I would say this book qualifies well as pulp science fiction. That I found the plot layers intriguing puts it well ahead of much of the other pulp. 

That said, there are many other favorites that I would recommend well ahead of this one. I recently mentioned my reread of Frank Herbert's The Dosadi Experiment, and I think that's an excellent book, yet maybe for a particular taste, not a general introduction. I'm considering rereading another old favorite, John Brunner's Stand on Zanzibar. I'm very curious to see how that stands up. Like Dosadi, I've reread that at various points (though not as many times as the former), and I've enjoyed it. It played with "new-wave" fragmented and provocatively disorienting storytelling in ways that were new to sci-fi (though not to contemporary fiction), and which were worth my while in how things tied together. I look forward to it...


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