Upon a Sea of Stars (John Grimes Saga)
by A. Bertram Chandler
Cover Artist: Alan Pollack
Review by Jon Guenther
Baen Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9781476736365
Date: 01 April 2014 List Price $14.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK
If there's anything better than A. Bertram Chandler's storytelling of John Grimes, it's the admirable way that Baen Books has paid homage to these timeless stories in their Omnibus reprints.
Upon a Sea of Stars is book five in the series that covers Grimes' adventures on the outer edge of the galaxy (e.g., the Rim). Weighing in at 640 pages, it includes the novellas: Into the Alternate Universe and Contraband from Otherspace, and the story collections titled The Rim Gods and The Commodore at Sea. Baen has segregated each of these volumes into a specific time period during the career of the inimitable John Grimes (who has served as a lieutenant, commander, captain, and now commodore in the Federation Survey Service), as well as the governor of a planet and (at times) all-around brigand.
While some of the references in this book are unarguably dated, the stories continue to be enjoyable for the sheer escapism represented thereto. For example, just one of the many wild events in Into the Alternate Universe is a sort of intergalactic sťance aboard a ship searching for spirits in an alternate dimension. And in Contraband from Otherspace, Grimes and Sonya Grimes nee Verril face cargo that can tear holes through the fabric of the space-time continuum. As if that weren't enough, The Rim Gods is a collection of stories that include another collection of tales on the sea (featuring variations on a princess, knights, and other Medieval references) and then The Commodore at Sea where Grimes meets an entire host of characters in a parallel universe (names omitted to prevent spoilers).
Mr. Chandler never ceases to amaze me with the select and vast choice of entertaining plots that are peopled by characters with already highly complex personalities who continue to evolve and on more than one occasion simply surprise me. Moreover, this particular collection explores a significant amount of non-technical material where the space-time continuum gets shifted, manipulated or goes just plain haywire.
Finally, these stories are when Grimes finally "settles down" with the character of Sonya Verril, who served as an officer with Grimes during many of his adventures in the Survey Service. This is in juxtaposition to the earlier works where basically Grimes will engage in intimate relations with practically any number of women readily available.
A. Bertram Chandler's experiences as a merchant seaman throughout many parts of the world add a highly palpable air of authenticity to his works. The stories in this book are no exception. Despite how you might feel about these "dated" science fiction classics, one cannot argue with the entertainment factor.