FORGOTTEN BOOK: BALLROOM OF THE SKIES by John D. MacDonald, 1953
This is the 89th in my series of Forgotten Books.
Two weeks ago I covered Donald E. Westlake’s TOMORROW’S CRIMES which contained science fiction and fantasy from one of the great mystery writers of our time. This week we get a similar treat. John D. MacDonald was one of the greats, one of my top three or four mystery novelists, along with Dashiell Hammett, Cornell Woolrich/William Irish and Raymond Chandler.
JDM wrote science fiction and fantasy as many of the post WWII writers did, just trying to make a living. He did three novels – this one, WINE OF THE DREAMERS and THE GIRL, THE GOLD WATCH AND EVERYTHING (one of my favorite fantasy novels and a truly awful made for TV movie).
In this novel, Dake Lorin has been working undercover in a near future environment. The US is a second rate power to India, Brazil and Iran. The world is on the edge of another World War, which will be nuclear and will be bad. Dake has been brokering some peace efforts with high power diplomat Darwin Branson. Just as world peace seems inevitable, Branson is killed and replaced with an identical duplicate who insults the final delegate for achieving this peace and the talks break down into farce.
Dake does not understand at first but soon finds himself involved in a strange conspiracy. A group of aliens are trying to recruit him to their purposes which are to prevent any sort of peace from being achieved. Dake finds himself in a hard position. The aliens have great power, power Dake would like to have. But, to achieve it, he will have to betray his race and planet. But teleportation and telepathy are only the first of the prizes they offer.
This is an action filled book with a fair bit of suspense. JDM does get a bit didactic in the middle as he tries to hammer home his philosophies but I have read much worse. All in all it is a good, fun read with some real twists in there and an ending which you do not see coming. I do not want to give many spoilers here because the fun is in seeing how the story develops.
With John D. MacDonald you really have to work to find a bad book and this one is not one of them. It is well worth your time and effort.
The book has been around a while and gone through many printings. Even the Greenberg hardback is available on the web though at prices ranging from modest to close to mortgage payment. Paperbacks are plentiful at all the usual sources.
Series organizer Patti Abbott hosts more Friday Forgotten Book reviews at her own blog, and posts a complete list of participating blogs.