Donald Westlake is known primarily for his crime fiction, the humorous Dortmunder series, the Parker books under his Richard Stark name, not to mention a host of other titles. But he dabbled occasionally in science fiction, at least early in his career. TOMORROW’S CRIMES gathers all those stories under one cover, nine shorts and one novel titled ANARCHAOS.
I’ve not read the stories, but I imagine there’s a crime element in them since this novel has a mystery as its central theme.
Rolf Malone had spent seven years in prison for manslaughter. It seems he has a violent temper. His brother Gar is a businessman assigned to the planet Anarchaos and a job had been arranged for Rolf as his assistant when he finishes his prison term.
On the day of his release, Rolf is informed that his brother has been killed. Since travel arrangements had already been set up and paid for, he decides he’s going to the planet and find out exactly what happened to his brother and who was responsible.
Anarchaos is a strange world. It circles a red giant, it’s day the same length as it’s year. The same face is always toward the sun, known to the colonists as Hell. The colony, five cities, lives on that face, the back side too cold and inhospitable for life.
The planet has no government, no police, owned by the corporations that run the mines. Valuable minerals and furs are its only exports.
Rolf thinks he’s a tough man. After all, he’d been in prison for killing someone. He’s heard the stories, but believes he can handle anything.
The last thing he’s told before disembarking from the shuttle, along with two other passengers, is that, over the last ten years, 72% of off-world visitors have disappeared, presumed murdered. Thatr means only one of the three will make it off the planet.
In his arrogance, Rolf believes he will be that one. His weapons are promptly confiscated.
Anarchaos proceeds, via that trite old saying, to chew him up and spit him out. Sold into slavery to work the mines, Rolf sinks into a funk as time passes, more than he realizes, that he only snaps out of when one hand is amputated because of an infection.
He escapes, is rescued by an old trapper, who decides he now has his own slave.
Everybody wants a piece of Rolf Malone and he doesn’t know why. He escapes once more, intent now only on getting to a spaceport and returning to Earth. Not that easy.
Every time he makes a move, someone else grabs him and questions him about his brother.
Slowly, he starts to learn what he came to Anarchaos to discover. Who killed his brother and why it was done. The people responsible want some knowledge from him. something his brother found and told him all about. Only it never happened.
I enjoyed this book and it’s resolution. I kept thinking I knew where it was headed. Partially right, but not completely. I think I need to get the collection of stories and read more science fiction from the grandmaster of mystery fiction.