EXTINCTION'S EDGE IS THE ULTIMATE NOVEL OF VIETNAM
The Marregh/Riken are an aquatic race of amoebic time travellers. Their mother ship is hidden behind the furthest ice planet of the solar system, while an observation vessel orbits unseen high above the only partially inviting world of deep blue oceans.
The oceans are too saline to colonize, but even worse they are divided by dry continents where insane land creatures wage an incomprehensible war.
The first horrified instinct of the Marregh/Riken is to move on, to explore elsewhere in the galaxies, but then they discover an appalling fact. This insane human species stands on the edge of space exploration, already they have begun to explore their own solar system, and eventually they could pose a direct threat to the peaceful races of other star systems.
So the Marregh/Riken begin a systematic study, to try and understand the motives and psychology of these alien creatures, by attaching themselves mentally to some of the key players in the long nightmare which the Earth beings have called the Vietnam War.
The Marregh/Riken must decide whether the human race is fit to survive, or whether they should be destroyed before they can become too powerful and export their blind hatreds out into the galaxies.
The first hosts chosen are the French Paratroop Lieutenant Rene Chauvel, and the orphan child who will eventually be called Phat Sang. Through their eyes the Marregh/Riken follow the events of the lost colonial war.
290 pages. US paperback $10.00. Kindle e-book $6.50
UK paperback £8.00
The alien surveillance continues as the Marragh/Riken sanction the third mind-melt with Vu Phan Quang, the corrupt politician first encountered by Phat Sang in a Hanoi refugee camp. Quang escapes from the horrors of the communist victory in the north to reach the dubious safety of Saigon and immediately becomes embroiled in the battles of the three rival groups who fought for political control before the USA threw its support behind the South Vietnamese government headed by Ngo Dinh Diem.
The bloodshed and suffering resume as the warlords tear apart the new Vietnam, while the Time-watchers struggle to understand the motivation behind the madness.
Rene Chauvel, the first mind-melt, returns to Saigon as a war correspondent for a Paris Newspaper, and Quang becomes captivated by Chauvel’s new wife.
The second mind-melt, the orphan girl Phat Sang, survives the Great Terror of the North Vietnamese Land Reform campaigns to become a refugee again in South Vietnam.
298 Pages. US Paperback $10.00 Kindle e-book $6.50
UK Paperback £6.57
From high above Vietnam the Marregh/Riken continue to observe the Buddhist Rebellion, which finally brings down the government of President Ngo Dinh Diem. Two new mind-melts are sanctioned for the second tri-mind in the observation capsule, with the gentle monk Huong Lin Van, and with Mary Francis, the idealistic young volunteer nurse.
The English girl and the monk are drawn together in what can only be a purely platonic friendship. Then Lin Van is injured in a bloody riot, rescued by Mary, and inadvertently breaks his vows by spending the night unconscious in her apartment. He sees fire suicide as his only means of atonement, until an older monk persuades him that his real duty is to toll the bell as their monastery is stormed by Diem’s forces. The tolling of the great pagoda bell alerts the world to what is happening to the Buddhists in Vietnam.
The Time watchers are appalled by the senseless savagery of the war and all of the corruption they have witnessed. However, they can also see hope in the selfless motives of the monk and the nurse. It leaves them still undecided on the issue of whether the human race should be preserved or destroyed.
Then a second Marregh Timeship appears with dreadful news. In another galaxy an Earth-like species has detected and attacked the peaceful observers, forcing a terminal response. A precedent has been set and now both Timeships echo with an urgent clamour for humanity to be erased.
266 Pages. US paperback $10.00 Kindle e-book $6.50
UK paperback £6.56
With two Timeships hidden in fixed orbit behind Pluto in the farthest reaches of the solar system, the extinction of the human race is imminent. It is only the watchers in the Earth observation capsule who are now pleading for more time and a longer study before the final decision is made.
Reluctantly three more mind melts are sanctioned.
The first new contact is with Nguyan Nam Kim who is taken as a boy from his home village and indoctrinated in the guerrilla camps in the jungles. Nam Kim grows from a hit and run fighter engaging in ambush and night attacks, to a seasoned veteran of the Viet Cong. Finally he is in one of the groups which merge with the North Vietnamese regiments that marched south to engage in full scale battles with American troops.
The climax comes in the initially victorious battle for Hue, the old imperial capital on the Perfume River, followed by the merciless US counter-attack which drove the Viet Cong out of the city.
Nam Kim disappears into the jungle with a handful of survivors, vowing that he will never give up the fight to free Vietnam.
272 Pages. US paperback £10.00. Kindle e-book $6.50
UK paperback £6.56
The alien surveillance of Vietnam has revealed only contradictions and madness. The Marregh/Riken have watched the war with the Americans through the eyes of the Viet Cong Guerrilla Nguyan Nam Kim, and at the same time watch a mirror version of those war years through the mind melt with Irvin Jones, a US Marine, drafted to fight for his country.
At one point Jones fights a hand to hand knife battle with Nguyan Nam Kim, each seeing the other as an inhuman monster that must be exterminated before peace can come to Vietnam. Confusion reigns in the racial mind of the Marregh/Riken.
In a desperate effort to stop an out of control massacre of helpless Vietnamese villagers Jones accidentally fires a shot that kills his commanding officer. His vicious platoon sergeant is determined to cover the incident up and kill Jones before his tour of duty ends. During the battle of Khe San, Sergeant Zabrowski deliberately leaves Jones and his two friends isolated at the end of a trench line, circling behind them just to make sure they do not escape the attacking Viet Cong.
The death of a tri-mind host will bring with it the extinction of the mental parasite within, a stupendous shock to the all observing Marregh/Riken.
234 pages. US paperback $10.00. Kindle e-book $6.50
UK paperback £6.55
The long years of surveillance are drawing to a close, and in the last days before the fall of Saigon the focus is on three women.
Mary Francis has returned to a second volunteer year in the hospital in Saigon.
Phat Sangh has grown up to become a bar girl in a Saigon bar, and she is Irvin Jones’s “Number One Girl.” She is also carrying Irvin’s baby. When she learns of Irvin’s death she naively goes to the American embassy, hoping that the baby in her belly will be her promised passport to America and Irvin’s family. There she walks into the fire fight as the US Embassy is attacked during the Great Tet Offensive, and is shot in the stomach.
Phat Sangh is taken to the hospital where Mary helps deliver the baby, but Phat Sangh dies.
Chauvel has discovered that his wife Suzanne and Vu Phan Quang are lovers but is ambushed in the street by assassins hired by Quang, and he too ends up in the hospital under Mary’s care. When he is able to discharge himself he goes in search of Quang. This time he is determined to settle the score.
In addition to their surveillance of the Vietnam War, the Marragh/Riken have also monitored every stage of the space race, from the first Russian sputnik to the American Moon Landings. Each step confirms their fears that eventually the human race will be able to export their blind hatreds beyond the confines of their own solar system. The appearance of the second Timeship with the awful news that in another galaxy the decision has been taken to terminate a similar insane species that presented a similar threat now heavily influences the final decision
Must they terminate the human race?
The fate of a species still hovers on extinction’s edge.
258 pages US paperback $10.00. Kindle e-book $6.50
UK paperback £6.52
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VIETNAM WAR: EXTINCTION'S EDGE IS THE ULIMATE NOVEL OF VIETNAM
THE STORY BEHIND THE STORY
The sixties were an emotional decade, a time of free love and flower power and anguished outbursts of conscience over the horrors of the Vietnam War. The seemingly endless conflict in a faraway corner of South East Asia was the first to be minutely scrutinized in every agonizing detail by a growing and ever-hungry news media. Our new color TV screens brought all the blood, fire and murder directly as it happened into our living rooms. Everyone had feelings and opinions about the first modern high-tech war launched with all its awesome fire-power on a tiny, peasant farmed Third World country.
It was a stimulating time of protest marches, student riots, draft-card bonfires in America and all the excitement and adventure of the hippie trail to Katmandu, which I traveled twice, in 1966 and 1969. I was a young author with my first dozen novels already published and now I wanted to write something meaningful about Vietnam. I had come to believe that my writing should be more than just telling a good story and entertaining my readers and that somehow it should be illuminating and thought-provoking. I was still young enough and naïve enough to think that my meager gifts could help to shape a better world.
I didn’t want to write just another war story, a heroic mission behind enemy lines, the standard act that saved the American war. I figured there would be plenty of gung-ho American war stories, with heroes bred and steeled in Vietnam, and ex-servicemen with first hand experience who were much better fitted to write them. What I wanted to write was the ultimate, all-encompassing novel of Vietnam itself. I wanted to write the stories of the Viet Cong, the refugees, the Buddhists and all those who lived, suffered and died in Vietnam, and not just the professional soldiers who went there under political and military command.
I was, however, prepared to try and get some close experience of my subject. At the end of my second overland trip in 1969 I added an extensive tour of Thailand, Laos and Cambodia and made repeated efforts to try and get a visa to take me into Vietnam. I crossed the Mekong from Thailand to reach the Laotian capital of Vientiane, but the Vietnamese embassy there was closed. Undaunted I traveled on down the Mekong to Cambodia and Pnom Penh. There was no functioning Vietnamese embassy in that city either but the Japanese embassy was handling diplomatic representation for Vietnam. I applied for an entry visa but after several days of waiting I was refused. By then I had learned that there was a Vietnamese consulate in Pakse that was open. I traveled back up the Mekong into Laos and found the Vietnamese consulate. It was open for business but again my application for a visa was refused. I went back to Thailand and tried the Vietnamese Embassy in Bangkok. Again a polite refusal. Finally I moved on to Hong Kong and tried the Vietnamese Embassy there. One more poker-face rejection.
In a Hong Kong bar over a couple of beers I related my weary tale to another back-packer who sat back and laughed. I had no chance, he said at last. For one thing I had the occupation author stated on my passport. For another, didn’t I know that Bertrand Russell was said to be writing a book about American war crimes in Vietnam, and that the eminent philosopher and peace campaigner employed a male research assistant who looked a lot like me.
I never found out if my supposed doppelganger did actually exist but there was one interesting footnote to this tale. In Tokyo I made one last effort to apply for a Vietnam visa before I left Asia on the trans-Siberian route home. There the oriental mask of inscrutability briefly slipped as the curious Vietnamese official behind the large desk leaned forward, looked me directly in the eyes, and said softly, “Do you know Bertrand Russell?” Of course I denied it, but there was still no visa.
I came home and wrote the book, spending weeks in the British Museum Newspaper library at Collingdale reading virtually every report that had ever come out of Vietnam. My characters were fictional but as far as possible every event that happened to them was based on what was reported as fact.
When the book was finished it ran to over 800 pages and did the rounds of all the mainstream British publishers. Out of a growing folder of rejection slips two main points emerged. The war was only just over and people were sick of hearing and reading about it. It was too soon for the book to find a market and it was too big.
I let it lie until the mid 1970s when Pinnacle Books in the USA published my Counter-Terror series of thrillers. Pinnacle also commissioned two books, a political thriller called A CLASH OF HAWKS, and another idea which they wanted me to ghost-write for their managing director. The ghost-writing led to an all expenses paid trip to New York and lunch with my editor Andy Ettinger. Andy asked if I had written anything else that Pinnacle might be interested in and so I outlined my Vietnam book. Andy immediately wanted to see it.
The book got good reviews from Pinnacle’s readers. Andy wanted to publish it but again there was the problem of judging the market. There was a small renewal of interest in Vietnam and Pinnacle had just published another large Vietnam novel. Now it was a matter of waiting to see if this rising tide of market interest would continue to grow or if it had already peaked. In the event Pinnacle sat on the book for over a year. I was reassured that it was on their A list of books they wanted to publish, but the market had flowed and now it had ebbed again. When they finally sent the book back the opportunity had gone.
The book was split into two books and had three changes of title. On both sides of the Atlantic publishers remained unimpressed. A book on Vietnam alone obviously wasn’t going to sell so I rewrote the whole thing and wove in the alien overview of the Marregh/Riken, the horrified space-time travelers who struggle to understand all the senseless slaughter. It became one book again with the new title of EXTINCTION’S EDGE.
Suddenly it was taken up again. Samhain, one of the new e-book publishers in the US had published my fantasy trilogy THE FIFTH PLANET and now they wanted to follow it up with EXTINCTION’S EDGE. Samhain wanted to publish as six short books and a sheaf of contracts were exchanged. It looked like third time lucky but then just as abruptly the contracts were all cancelled. Samhain had decided to concentrate all their efforts on their erotic romance titles.
I still believe that this is my best work. Unfortunately US readers and publishers have always been uncomfortable with books on Vietnam because it is a war that the US did not exactly win. However, for an enterprising agent there are large markets in Germany, France and the Uk that could be interested. Ken Follet is a classic example of an author who had to become a best seller in Germany before making his name in the USA. All the rights on EXTINCTION'S EDGE are still available.