Retief! by Keith Laumer

Published: 2002

Genre: far future sci-fi

Length: 608 pages

Setting: various planets throughout the galaxy in the far future

Interest: It was a book a picked randomly off my Kindle. I originally put it on my Kindle as a free book from Baen Books that can be found here.

Summary: The book is actually a series of short stories and one novella about the exploits of Retief, a low-ranking member of the Ambassador Corps. All the stories follow the same basic pattern. The Corps have gotten the natives into a bad situation. Retief, who is an expert at every alien dialect, disobeys orders, slips the noose of the situation, gets helped by some sympathetic natives he happens to run into, and, with the judicious application of some violence (usually no killing, though), turns the situation around for the natives. At that point, the Corps is forced to accept the new situation that no longer favors the Terrans as strongly.

Final thoughts: Enjoyable enough in small doses, but tiresome to read all at once since they basically tell the same story. Only the setting and the particular aliens involved change. Putting the stories all together into one book does a disservice to them, because you’re then tempted to read them in short succession. Don’t do it. Read them one at a time, with many other stories in between so you can enjoy the farce (everything always goes just right for Retief), instead of being annoyed by the similarities.

One minor quibble was in the name choice for the main character. Every time I saw Retief, I thought it was a misspelling of relief – even the “t”and the “l” are so similar, my mind kept trying to change the letters.

Title comes from: The main character.


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