That was Unexpected

Today’s book was The Stars Must Wait by Keith Laumer.  It’s an entry in the Bolo series, which means it’s military sci-fi.  Bolos are giant sentient tanks.  If you’re familiar with the game OGRE by Steve Jackson, this is where he got the idea from.

The Stars Must Wait is the only volume I was missing, so I was incredibly thrilled to find it in a bookstore last Saturday…and incredibly disappointed to realize how familiar it was when I started it this morning.  But, the more I read, I found a second act and location that was new to me.  Some interesting additions, though frankly it made the dystopian society even less interesting to me.

Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t your standard dystopian crap that you’d find on any bookshelves nowadays.  I mentioned that a lot of this book was familiar, right?  Well, once I got home I scanned through my other volumes and I found it.  Originally titled “The Night of the Trolls”, this is a story from Bolo: Annals of the Dinochrome Brigade, the original collection of Keith Laumer’s stories.  The short story was first published in 1963, so you can see how it’s structured fairly differently from the stuff in today’s young adult section.

When Laumer revisited “The Night of the Trolls” in 1990, he didn’t just expand on it.  He changed the story itself – most notably the ending.  Which a major and fascinating change.  Essentially, the story comes down to a choice, and there are only two options.  The Stars Must Wait chooses to go down the other path.

I’ve read a few short stories that were expanded into novels, but this is the first time I’ve read one that goes so drastically opposite.  Especially considering that the first third of the book is pretty close to the original.  It makes you wonder what Laumer was thinking at that point in his life, close to thirty years after he’d written the story, and only a few years before he died.

Next time I read this book, I definitely want to read Bolo first and take the time to compare the two iterations of the same tale.  Now that I know what I’m looking at, it’ll be less disappointing and more intriguing.  Since I haven’t reread Bolo in a while, I’m not yet prepared to say which of the two I prefer, though I think I’m leaning towards the original just because The Stars Must Wait felt overly long.

I think I’ll poke at my Bolo books and see if there’s one that appeals to me for tomorrow.  There’s some very good stuff in this series, though there’s some mediocre tales too.

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