The Dumarest Saga is the greatest Dodecaquadraphenicadon ever written, or whatever the correct term is for a 33 volume series. Up until a few days ago, top of my list of books I haven't got but I would like to have was Volume 32 of the Dumarest saga. My attempt to get a copy is a saga in itself.
I first came across Earl Dumarest in the 1970s when about a dozen books of this sci-fi series had been published. I avidly read all the series and then the new books, and everything was going well until the series hit book 31 towards the end of the 1980s. Then suddenly the books stopped appearing and I had no idea why.
Years later the Internet provided me with the answer of what had happened. Simply, the publisher stopped printing the books so the author stopped writing them. The final book #32: Return to Terra did get published in France though. So, like many others, I've bid plenty of times on eBay for one of the rare copies, but to no avail. Now amazingly I've just found out that after over a decade of silence the venerable author has written a new final limited-edition book #33: Child of Earth. Again it is commanding high prices on eBay.
So why does this sf series have such great appeal? Well, Earl Dumarest is the hero, and what a hero he is. He's as hard as nails, has a way with the ladies, and he's a man with a purpose. You see, in the far-future, he's the only person who still believes in the mystical home world on which he was born called earth. He will not rest until he finds his way back there, even if he has to visit every planet in the galaxy - or at least 33 of them.
In all the books there is just the one plot. And it's a good one and goes something like this: Dumarest is hanging around a space bar, down on his luck and with no money. He's spent his last cents on a berth out of his last port of call and now he's holed up in the seedy part of a space-port.
Here, with no other options, he fights until first blood is drawn in a gladiatorial knife fight to earn enough money for a passage to another planet. He wins, having had to kill his opponent after an illegal move was used. While nursing his wounds, a woman in a slinky costume with a thing for fighters offers him some personal grooming. Dumarest is quick on the uptake and realizes this is just a euphemism, but he is a man alone. He doesn't get involved with girls, even alluring, half-dressed and begging for it ones, so he declines.
Then he notices that the necklace the woman is wearing has 'Property of Earth' stamped in big letters across the middle. He puts the clues together and deduces this might help him find the location of earth. Cue flashback to his birth and childhood on earth plus a run through of the few clues he's picked up in previous books.
Dumarest realizes he must get to know this woman, but having spurned her unsubtle advances, he's in a quandary. Luckily, she really does only what him for his big muscles. You see, she owns a mining company and someone is secretly ripping her off. She wants a hunky man to sort it out. Dumarest strikes a bargain: he'll sort out her problems if she'll let him have the necklace and all the information about it. She agrees.
Dumarest visits some exotic worlds, gets in some fights, shows the woman a good time, and generally passes the time fruitfully. Finally there's a showdown with the bad guys after which Dumarest is the only one left standing. Then the woman, who he now loves deeply like no woman he's ever met before, well, since the last book anyway, dies in his arms saying, 'If you want to find earth go to... urghhhhh.'
There the story ends. Dumarest has a useless necklace, enough money for transport on the next ship out of the quadrant, and a vague sense of purpose to find someone called urgh.
Occasionally there are variations to this story. Sometimes he gets into a gladiator fight at the end of the book, sometimes in the middle. Sometimes the woman he falls for is blonde and sometimes in the really experimental books she's a brunette.
That's about it: brainless adventure, but not brain-numbing. These books are high quality pulp, always fast-paced with no time for pondering the meaning of existence. Within its own set limitations, it creates a whole civilization, a future barbarian society in which everyone acts for their own base needs and nobody ever devotes their time to bettering the world. This is great adventure stuff and the best of its type. And now the quest for books 32 and 33 can begin in earnest...!