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KEY TO VENUDINE + MERCENARY FROM TOMORROW
Kelly Freas; Jack Gaughan
VG to VG+
In Bulmer's "Keys to the Dimensions" series, there is a dimension-spanning empire headed by the Contessa Perdita di Montevarchi, centered on the dimension/world of Irunium. By ruthlessly controlling "Porteurs" (those who can find and use dimensional portals) the Contessa has access to the resouces of many worlds. As the series builds, more people (many from Earth, some natural Porteurs) are drawn into contact with this empire - which is inherently unstable, and building toward a climactic battle as dissidents and disaffected make their escape and combine forces.
Ace Double H-65 (1968): containing The Key to Venudine by Kenneth Bulmer, bound with Mercenary from Tomorrow by Mack Reynolds. This is the first book appearance for each.
The Key to Venudine by Kenneth Bulmer - (cover by Kelly Freas, frontispiece by Jack Gaughan, 122 pages.) Venudine is not like our world - it is much more primitive. Two joustabouts (read: mercenaries) have come to Parnasson to fight in the tournaments to mark the marriage of Red Rodro the Bold. While flying their griffs (fighting beasts trained from birth), Fezius and Offa observe an ambush being laid, and decide to investigate. The uncanny intrudes when Offa is knocked down by a sparkling blue beam and things become really strange when the target of the ambush is revealed to be the bride-to-be Princess Nofret and her witch sister Lai - but the ambushers are Lord Rodro's men, led by Rodro himself! After exhausting her otherworldly weapon which slew silently from a distance, Lai summons a man from another world armed with a shotgun. This tilts the balance of the fight enough for Fezius to help the Princess and her sister to escape. Heedless of consequences, Lai takes a griff to fly back to Parnasson to get more charges for her weapon. Unfortunately for Fezius - he has become smitten with the witch, and so goes in pursuit to rescur her. Lai's weapon was made by Slikitters, who turn out to be in deep with (or in control of) Red Rodro, they have a high-tech laboratory complete with world-gates. A chase through worlds ensues, including a passage through New York City of our Earth - where characters from The Key to Irunium are encountered, and some explanations supplied.
(Bound with) Mercenary from Tomorrow by Mack Reynolds - (cover and frontispiece by Jack Gaughan, 131 pages.) This is first in the series featuring Joe Mauser. It is an expansion of "Mercenary" from Analog April 1962 (thus preceding the first book to appear in the series: The Earth War (a.k.a. "Frigid Fracas.") Set in a status-conscious future U.S.A., corporate disputes are settled by pseudo-gladiatorial contests, and packaged by the media as entertainment. Small professional armies fight with pre-1900 weapons. Joe Mauser is one of those mercenaries - he feels stifled, prevented from a chance to "rise to the top" in this stratified society. As a Mid-Middle on the make, he vows to get to the top, and thinks he's found a way to work the system... [I am indebted to Clute & Nichols' Encyclopedia of SF for the beginning of this summary - the blurb/excerpt does not state the basic situation.]