Alan Dean Foster, at first impulse, could be said to be a man of frivolous stories such as the Spellsinger(*) series and the sci-fi hero-drama of Flinx(**). So with these first excursions into Fosters work, I was expecting similar frivolity, gaiety and not a little bit of cheesy jokes and warbling verbige. But The Man Who Used the Universe is much different than these previous stories by Foster that Ive read. Its quite serious stuff.
The Man Who Used the Universe is a science fiction drama much along the lines of what Piers Anthony did with the Bio of a Space Tyrant(***) series. Kees Van Loo-Macklin is a man with a difficult childhood (arent they all?) who vows, while young, to never allow a single soul, entity or alien have any form of control over his life and maneuvers. This vow, spoken when his mother dumped him off at an orphanage because he was simply too much of a bother, has been a prime directive of his life-long activities as political figure, businessman and thug. The story unfolds as Kees begins his life as a young assassin in the underworld of Evenwaith, a planet of the United Technological Worlds (UTW). The UTW includes a great number of planets with dominance of humanity, but does include some minority alien races (Orinthians, Abathascans, etc.).
After it is discovered that his illegal boss, even after disposing of his target and performing the job given to him admirably, intends to have him killed simply because Kees is dangerous, not being able to be read by anyone and always being the loner, he turns the tables and after a brilliant yet dirty assassination takes control of this empire for himself in one large retaliatory strike. Maneuvering swiftly, he soon turns this empire into the largest of its kind, delving off of Evenwaith into other planets of the UTW and swallowing whole other family businesses as he seems fit. He ends his career as an illegal abruptly, and sells out to become one of the largest freelance businessmen in the legal, above-ground worlds of the UTW.
His ultimate plan unfolds, but always it twists and turns into itself leaving the reader breathless with what swift turn is going to come next. The plot continuously changes and adds new threads to the equation, as Lees begins to perform business with non-UTW worlds as commerce begins heavily with the Nuel alliance a race of ugly, snailish slimeskins whom he becomes human agent for in their bid to eventually delve into and take over the UTW worlds. The UTW meanwhile turn Lees double-agent, or so they think. But the plot twists keep the novel from becoming simplistic and the addition of yet a third, up-to-now unknown, race set on dominance brings lee to the forefront of political power and, following his prime directive, ultimate control so that nobody else can lay claim to his fate.
While some of the novel does tend to drag as it sets itself up and lays on the threaded plots and smaller turnings, the end result of The Man Who Used the Universe closes with yet a final, closing twist and the creation of one of the greatest hoaxes ever penned. The very extent that Kees has gone to make sure that he is the only controller of his own life is amazingly deep and throughout the entire book, from beginning to end, you will be questioning the morals of the man and the color of his heart. While driven by sole purpose, Lees dealings with worlds beyond the UTW and the Nuel will still lead you to wonder whether or not his work as a leader of two races, which in the end he is, was beneficial or moralistically detrimental. Kees Van Loo-Macklin truly is a man who used the universe for his own designs, and everything within that universe that came within his sphere. But whether or not he did so with a black or golden heart is left entirely up to you.
(*) The first, Spellsinger,
was reviewed in Legends
#132. Also from the
Spellsinger series, Moment of the Magician was
reviewed in Legends
(**) One of these, Flinx in Flux, was reviewed in the Off The Shelf column in Legends #119.
(***) This series was visited in the Off The Shelf Column within Legends #121.
The Man Who Used the
Universe by Alan Dean Foster
Published by Warner Books
Copyright © 1983 by Alan Dean Foster