GunnerCade isan SF adventure novel 1byCyril Kornbluth and Judith Merril, originally published under thepen-name Cyril Judd.
Wow,am I slow on the uptake … it’s just now I see how they came upwith the pen-name.
It is fitting that the Emperor rules. Itis fitting that the Armsmen serve the Emperor through the PowerMaster and our particular Stars. While this is so all will be well,to the end of time.
GunnerCade believes this with every atom of his well-conditioned body. Ifnot for the emperor and the unbending rules Cade and his fellowwarriors serve, the world might fall back into the clutches of the Beetu-Nine , the Beefai-voh , and Beethrie-Six. Thanks to the selflesssacrifice of the Emperor, the world has been secure for ten thousandyears.
Cadeis loyal to a fault and nobody can fault his determination to adhereto the rules. His imagination is sadly deficient, which is why itnever occurs to him he should distrust the elderly commoner. So hequaffs the drugged drink she offers him.
Cadewakes to find himself prisoner of a cult, one that has chosen him to murder the Power Master himself. Their plan: to hypnotize him tobetray his deepest beliefs. The plan fails, as the conspiracy hasbeen infiltrated by someone hiding in shadows, someone who for somereason is assisting and protecting Cade.
Cademanages to escape the cult. He must then evade recapture and reportthe conspiracy to his senior officers. This proves more difficultthan expected, as he has been reported killed in action. Theauthorities believe him to be a dangerous madman pretending to beCade. He is to be captured and turned over to the civilianauthorities for execution … that is, if he manages to avoid beingkilled out of hand by his fellow Armsmen.
Cadeeludes his pursuers long enough to make contact with a official whowill listen to him. Or rather, seems to listen to him. He isbetrayed, and finds himself on the run again. Now, and only now, hebegins to doubt the regime he has served so faithfully. If hisseniors are self-serving voluptuaries, whom can he trust? If theArmsmen can be corrupted, if such a pillar of his world is a lie,then what grand cause can poor Cade serve?
Ifirst read this novel as part of an Ace Double.
Hmm; based onthe publication date, I think this must have been the first time Iread anything by H. Beam Piper. I have no memory of Crisis in 2140 at all. I’ve long since misplaced theoriginal book. Which is probably all to the good, as I am not reallysure how I would review and file such a curious artefact. In a formatthat no longer exists. Which is odd, really. Ace managed to sellbooks in that format, but nobody else seems to have duplicated thefeat.
Cadeseems as dumb as box of rocks. A lot of effort has gone into makinghim inflexible and incurious, because the imperial order depends onthe people holding the lethal weapons never asking inconvenientquestions. For that matter, there are whole modes of warfare theempire has been designed to prevent. No nuclear apocalypse if themilitary considers conventional warfare the only possible method.Anything else is justnot done .
Toits credit, the empire seems to provide most people with livelihoodsand security. Armsmen appear to be the main outsiders to this stodgyutopia; they are encouraged to embrace short, thrilling lives andglorious honourable deaths. Their military code seems to haveprevented them from seizing actual power, which they are well placedto do.
It’sonly after hundreds of lifetimes that some of the unintendedconsequences of the founders’ choices are coming back to haunt theimperium. It’s rapidly depleting the last sources of atomic energyand the stagnant, hidebound science of the time is ill-equipped tocome up with substitutes. Oh well. Ten thousand years is a prettygood run for a society.
Asfor the actual story … it moves fast and does not overstay itswelcome. The plot is very straightforward, the plot twists arepredictable, and the characters are for the most part stock figuresthat would been familiar to the SF readers of 1952, when GunnerCade was first serialized.
Perhapsthe one thing that surprised me on this reread is that the women inthis novel actually have agency. Their choices drive the plot.Without them, Cade would have had the short, glorious life he hadexpected. That would have made a grimmer ending for the book, but onethat Cade himself would have preferred.
GunnerCade isincluded in the omnibus SpacedOut: Three Novels of Tomorrow, available here(Amazon) .It does not appear to be available from Chapters-Indigo.
1:Why not military SF? Because I don’t think there was such a thinguntil the 1980s. This is at best proto-MilSF.