Friday, December 8, 2006

Badge of Infamy

Badge of Infamy, by Lester Del Rey, is another of those stalwart novels that provide the backbone of the SF tradition. It involves the redemption of a hero, Dan Feldman, in otherworldly circumstances, but there is absolutely nothing other than the setting that makes it SF. In fact, given Feldman redeems himself in the deserts of Mars, there is much in the novel that reminds one of Westerns or frontier novels. The plot is straightforward, the characters are fairly flat, and the language is utilitarian.

Nonetheless, the story does pull you in perhaps because of its simplicity. Once the reader gets past the jeremiad about the failure of civic responsibility disguised as the history of the future Earth, the chain of events Feldman finds himself in are compelling—a pariah doctor is the only person working to thwart a plague threatening both Mars and Earth. Nothing extraordinary happens; the novel becomes a medical procedural fraught with the lack of the most modern equipment to fight the terrifying plague on the frontier. But like nearly all procedurals, the research in quest of answers is enough to keep one’s interest engaged. There’s even some mild love interest for Feldman, but like the marshal of a new territory, he recognizes at the end that it’s no life for the women he loves and he must continue to fight the good fight alone.

Another good book to while away the hours with and fun for its historical place in the pulp tradition.

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