Seetee Alert! (Cap Kennedy, volume 6)
By E. C. Tubb
E. C. Tubb’s Seetee Alert! is the sixth volume in his Cap Kennedy series, written under the penname Gregory Kern. It is the only Cap Kennedy book I’ve ever read.
At the height of a carnival on poverty-stricken planet Somope, a daring theft leaves a trail of bodies in its wake. The item stolen? A disgraced scientist’s seemingly valueless notebook.
Meanwhile Cap Kennedy and his crew are traveling through deep space in their starship Mordain, testing a cutting-edge force field. The test takes a deadly turn when the craft encounters something far more deadly than expected: a contraterrene (AKA Seetee or antimatter) storm!
Cap Kennedy and the rest of Mordain’s crew survive, although their ship is badly damaged. When they detect a nearby alien craft, they ask for help … and the alien ship opens fire. Rude! Rather than return fire, Cap and the Mordainflee.
Cap, a Free Acting Terran Envoy — F.A,T.E — is assigned to investigate the theft. It’s not clear why the notebook is important (the scientist who penned it was trying to invent interstellar gates and failed), but it was stolen by Chambodians, Terra’s evil enemies. If they want it, it must be part of a scheme to undermine or destroy Terra. It must be recovered! Elias Weyburn, Director of Terra Control  sends Cap, a trusted agent, to join a revived gate project under an assumed name. Cap will either discover what Chambodia is up to or die trying. If he dies, Terra might die with him!
Tubb was an extremely prolific author. The seventeen Cap Kennedy books were published over the course of a decade. In that same decade, Tubb also published twenty-one Dumarest books, five Space 1999 tie-ins, five standalones, and a collection. That’s one book every month or two, sustained for years. It’s an impressive output but it probably didn’t leave a lot of time for edits and polishing.
Although Tubb’s Dumarest books were quite readable, Seetee Alert! is, to put it nicely, comprehensively dire. There’s really no element of this work that isn’t questionable, from the paper-thin characters to the decision to steal the notebook during a local carnival (the only time when the notebook is closely guarded). There’s the Chambodian decision to murder their hired crook with a contagious disease which takes out a hecatomb of bystanders. Mere coincidence sends Cap out into space to meet the Seetee, which turns out to be crucial to the plot. Such as it is. The Chambodians appear to be failures as evil masterminds, imprisoning Cap in a prison cell which just happens to feature a convenient man-sized ventilator shaft.
There is one element of the plot that rings true: despite being very poor, Samope does have a small monied class, who have been convinced to invest in a dubious gate project. Once they’ve sunk money into the white elephant, they keep investing, lest they lose their sunk costs. The novel ends quite abruptly, so we don’t see the consequences for Samone’s plutocrats, but it seems very unlikely to be good.
Cap is part bargain-basement Flandry, part cut-rate Bond (but entirely sexless). His only notable trait is manly determination.
The book ends on something of a cliff-hanger. Will Cap and his ship survive the events that end the book? The ten books that followed this installment strongly suggest that he did.
Seetee Alert! is available here (Amazon US), here (Amazon Canada), here (Amazon UK), here (Book Depository), and here (Chapters-Indigo).
1: Formerly of Terra’s Overall Regulation Department of Environmental Resources AKA ORDER. Tubb likes his acronyms.