The introduction to The Complete Compleat Enchanter mentioned Sinister Barrier by Eric Frank Russell, so I read it. It’s good for what it is: pulp.
It’s extremely good pulp but still extremely pulp.
The main character is a detective of some kind, and he starts out investigating some scientists dying. Cosmic mysteries ensue, and things get rolling. I was a little annoyed at how long it took to disclose what was going on. Nothing really happened for a while, but when the big reveal happened, matters moved on pretty quickly. Global catastrophe and the end of human life hung in the balance by book’s end.
Everyone’s flat. The two main leads don’t really play off each other; one’s the boss and good at everything, and he bosses the other around. This is the hyper-competent man that gets referred to so much. It fits the story, but that’s the story you’re getting. Just know what you’re getting into.
What you’re going after in pulp is moving events. Things can’t stagnate. They need to get bigger and worse with every chapter until things hit the ceiling. All along, there must be endless certain doom the hero constantly barely survives, and it’s got to be gripping. If the reader buys the plot, the story should have a lot of tension. This one worked for me, but I got over a few things. If those stop you, you won’t enjoy it at all.
It’s just one of those books that is what it is. Don’t read Anne Rice if you aren’t into bad romance and vampires. There’s SCIENCE! in the Sinister Barrier, and if we were all manly enough man-scientists, the world would be a utopia.
I liked it, though. It rolled right along. 4/5