Now was a good time.
Many established authors, or their estate, are reviving their stories by bundling them together, adding on a bright new cover and reissuing their work. Imperium is a three story collection.
Keith first published “Worlds of the Imperium” in the science fiction magazine, “Fantastic Stories” as a serial from February to April 1961. Many authors used short stories or serialized their fiction in magazines to build a fan base back in the day. (Some still do) In 1962, he released the novel in an Ace-Double Day edition.
The second story in this novel, “The Other Side of Time” was also serialized in “Fantastic” in 1965, while “Assignment in Nowhere” was published by Berkley in 1968.
Interestingly, Baen books picked up his rights and put all three together and printed them in paperback in August 2012. Keith is no longer alive, but now his writing survives to a new generation of science fiction fans.
In Imperium, time travel and twisted reality deliver a fast-paced action thriller.
United States diplomat Brion Baynard gets kidnapped. But it isn’t an ordinary kidnapping. He’s taken and transported to an alternate universe with a timeline similar to Earth, but just a shade different in its history. There he confronts the current leaders of the Imperium: Hermann Goering, Manfred Rittmeister and Friherr von Richthofen. The Imperium comprises the major portion of the civilized world: North America, West Hemisphere, Australia, etc. This iteration of history has a Maxoni-Cocini field generator transporter that allows travel across timelines.
And each timeline is a little different. Turns out there are countless parallel Earths, each different, and more uninhabitable worlds, destroyed by the misuse of cross time travel…along with some inhabited by human variations.
Not all friendly..
Baynard soon learns the reason for his kidnapping…he looks identical to the enemy’s top evil dictator, also named Brion Baynard, and the plan is to insert him into this twin’s residence where he is tasked to assassinate him and take his place.
The plan goes awry.
The target is out of town and Brion gets caught up with a subversive underground resistance causing the plot to thicken.
This is a good old fashioned science fiction action thriller, even though the reader might be able to figure out what happens, it does provide an exciting story with some surprises.
If that’s your type of science fiction, then I recommend it. I happen to like action packed science fiction about time travel. Not so much alternate universes. However, the science and complexity of the alternate worlds is well thought out.
The second story, “The Other Side of Time,” continues Brion Baynard’s life in the alternate universe of the Imperium, where the net is a continuum of alternate world lines, a matrix of simultaneous reality.
Baynard has his dinner interrupted by an urgent call to the palace where he goes through a puzzling interrogation. As he leaves, an odd smell and activity attract him and he investigates. He finds human Neanderthal types called the Hagroon, who have discovered the time hopping technology and have infiltrated the lower levels of the Imperium Palace and are planning an attack to destroy this world.
Of course, Baynard wants to stop them, and he tries to disable the multi car contraption, only to be taken back to their world and captured.
In prison there, he meets Field Agent Dzok, captured from another timeline and of an even more alien/human appearance. The two plot an escape and end up on Dzok’s home world. From there it’s an adventure in traversing various worlds in attempt to get home in time to stop the attack by using time travel.
I would give Imperium four stars because of the interesting time travel and fast paced action. Character development, of all but Baynard, is traded off for the complicated plot. The point of view is first person, so everything happens through Baynard’s eyes, and you don’t even get a good idea of what he looks like.
Still, it’s fun to discover a popular classic, once and a while, and enjoy a good time travel novel.