KEITH LAUMER – The Other Side of Time. Imperium agent Brion Bayard #2. Berkley F1129, paperback original; 1st printing, August 1965. Signet, paperback, November 1972. Collected in Beyond the Imperium (Tor, paperback, 1981) with Assignment in Nowhere (1968). Also collected in Imperium (Baen, paperback, 2005) by adding Worlds of the Imperium (1962) to the preceding volume. First hardcover edition: Walker, 1971. Originally serialized in Fantastic Stories, April-June 1965.

   From the title you might expect this to be a time-travel novel, and it is, but only in a way. What it really is is a novel of parallel universes, each separated from the other by the slimmest fabric of branched-off possibilities. What the world ruled by the Imperiumis is is an alternate Earth, one in which subtle differences between that world and ours are slowly but surely designed to be picked up on. (The time travel aspect comes in when it is discovered that in some parallel universes time travels at a different rate than it does in others.)

   It might be best to read Worlds of Imperium, the first in the series, before tackling this one. The Other Side of Time is a mapcap adventure in time and space that starts out in high gear and then notches the action up every two or three chapters along the way. What leading protagonist Bryon Bayard, based in Stockholm Zero-Zero, learns almost at once is that his world is being invaded by the orge-ish creatures called the Hagroon, and unless he does something about it, he will be the only one who survives. The rest of the books consists of him fighting a one-man resistance against the invaders, and as he does so, getting tossed this way and that in world after world, sometimes a captive and sometimes an utterly abandoned castaway.

   As a man of some endurance and ingenuity, Bayard is a MacGyver of his time times ten. It is a lot of fun seeing him juryrigging a shuttle based on a box and a few magnetic coils and setting off across a space-time continuum otherwise completely impossible to fathom — except in the imagination of an author like Keith Laumer.

   I cannot do better than to quote directly from page 152 of the Signet edition:

   The transparent helmet was in place, all the contacts tight. Dzok made a couple of quick checks, gave me the O sign with his fingers that meant all systems were go. I put my hand on the “activate” button and took my usual deep breath. If Dzok’s practice was as good as his theory, the rewired S-suit would twist the fabric of reality in a different manner than its designers had intended, stress the E-field of the normal continuum in a way that would expel me, like a watermelon seed squeezed in the fingers, into that curious non-temporal state of null entropy — the other side of time, as he poetically called it.

   If it worked, that was.