I bought Who Goes Here in the Ace paperback edition and enjoyed it immensely when I first read it.  This is a good old fashioned comedy romp through space and alien worlds with funny situations and some inventiveness from Bob Shaw in the form of space travel, aliens and wacky characters.

Who Goes Here was first published in 1977 and was good enough to warrant a sequel, Dimensions, also published as Warren Peace.

Warren Peace, the hero of this book, wakes up to a pretty nurse who asks him if he feels better. He does but he is a little confused. Slowly it is brought to his attention that he has signed up for thirty years* service of the Space Legion. Questioning why he would be stupid enough to sign up to the Space Legion he is answered with another question: Why did people sign up to the French Foreign Legion? To forget he tells Captain Widget.

And that’s the same reason people join the Space Legion; to forget. And the Space Legion has a machine that removes memories so people do forget.

Unfortunately for Warren Peace he seems to have forgotten everything.

Everyone that he subsequently meets responds to this with ‘You must have been a monster!’

Peace doesn’t believe he has signed up for the Space Legion, until he sees himself on video doing exactly that, and he also sees his signature on the contract.

Peace soon finds that there are precautions built into the system to stop recent recruits defaulting on contracts or trying to disobey. Each recruit has a Mark Three command enforcer surgically implanted in them. It adds harmonics to the voice which ensures ‘absolute, unthinking obedience’.

One of the funniest scenes for me was when Peace decided to get out of the situation by getting a hulking great Sergeant mad at him. It’s a great pay off to the situation which I won’t spoil for anyone who hasn’t yet read the book.

Peace finds himself and his new friends in the 203 Regiment, sponsored by Triple Ess; Savoury Shrimp Sauce, and soon they are onto basic training – with some of them still harbouring plots of escape – which consists of pulling the trigger on their weapons and hitting the target. Peace and the rest of the group – the Fort Eccles class of ten am – were then shipped out.

Peace is annoyed at the wait when they are in a long narrow room with benches, waiting for the transfer to the tall ships for space travel to the stars; so much so that to the at first humorous delight of the others he tries to open the door of the room. It is then, with his friends sitting on his chest after having stopped his attempt to open the door, that peace finds out they are in the ship, and that it is hurtling through space as they speak using ‘Non-Elucidean tachyon displacement’. Or instant matter transmission.

Not across vast distances but only a few hundred metres: the ship transmits itself forward a few hundred metres to the receiver at the other end.

They find themselves thrown straight into the action under the command of the youthful Lieutenant Merriman.

Warren finds out his weapon isn’t as effective as he was told it was; however he not only survives but gets himself a prisoner of war. And there is the first mention of the ‘throwrugs and the Oscars’. And no the Oscars aren’t an award. The capture of a prisoner means that Peace and the rest of the unit are considered too good for this battle, and are shipped out to Threlkeld, a planet without intelligent species and where the only job of the Legion is to make the jungles safe for miners

However, Peace wants out, and he wants to rediscover his past, find out who he is and why all his memory was wiped. It’s on Threlkeld that Peace devises his plan to escape from the Legion, and with a little buttering up of Merriman – from whom he gets the broadcast frequency of the voice command enforcer – he can create a device which nullifies the effect of the voice command enforcer.

Finally Peace gets to the planet he wants to, Aspatria. There he uses his four hours leave to escape from the Legion and start to investigate his past, and get back his memories.

This is more of a talky novel than other of Bob Shaw’s work in that there is a lot more dialogue in this novel than normally in a novel by Bob Shaw. It’s very funny in places and moderately funny in other places. There are a few running jokes which crop up throughout the book and these are well used by Shaw: not overused as can happen. A lot of the book is snappy and a lot of the dialogue rolls on, taking the reader further into the story and letting us get closer to Warren and the other characters – even the minor ones. It is a very enjoyable book by Bob Shaw, although its core isn’t as high concept as some of his other work.

* The figure thirty can read as taken to be forty, or even fifty, according to the contract.

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