Divide and Rule — L. Sprague De Camp (1939 & 1941)

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Publisher: Lancer Books

First Lancer Edition, 1964

Cover Art: Uncredited (though clearly someone’s channeling Vonnegut—leave a comment if you know)

Plot Synopsis (of cover): The multifarious horrors of war escape no fighting man in it. Truly, those who speak of glory and righteousness to those on the line must do so in very loud voices to be heard from where they sit. For many, that grisly patriotism is no doughty thing, especially when one’s foe is no longer rendered in the abstract. Such was the case with Footman Hoseur, a swordsman with the fifth armored division of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. It was a blue Monday when the Canadian draft board pulled his number to fight the Great Mousy Menace, and though Hoseur was a fast riser in the ranks, he ascended with the grim fatalism of a man cursed. It was in Hoseur’s civilian position that he was first introduced to the giant mutant mice of mysterious origins. As Associate Exterminator for Gary’s Git-Um-Good L.L.C., he was dispatched to the Banff Cheese Wheel Depository. While he did plan on deploying traps and maybe spraying a bit of cheese-friendly poison in the odd corner, he did not count on six-foot-tall helmeted mice. Nor, it seems, did he count on falling deeply in love with their leader, Mr. Nibbles. For a week and a day, he and Mr. Nibbles made sweaty gay love atop gargantuan wheels of Gouda and muenster, slaked their passions amongst the curds, and feasted equally upon each other and poutine (for it is no hard thing to extend one’s passions via the liberal application of cheese and brown gravy). When the giant mice inevitably rose up against their Canadian oppressors, Hoseur and Mr. Nibbles were drawn to opposite sides of the conflict, and would meet only once more—on the battlefield. It wasn’t until Sergeant Nibbles was gut-deep into Footman Hoseur’s blade that either soldier recognized the other. A mouse was, after all, a mouse, and a man nothing more than a man. In the end, however, clarity dawned, and they embraced as the life drained from the fuzzy marauder. Sergeant Nibbles tasted of Camembert, Footman Hoseur of brie.

Relatively Irrelevant Inside Text: This book contains two stories in a similar vibe. The first, titled the same as the book, is a lot of fun. It’s one of those that takes place in a future where mankind regresses into their past, and I’ve always enjoyed that kind of thing. In this case, we get a strange mix of feudalism, alien insurgency, and the American Dream (with just enough love for the Working Man to make the twitchier McCarthyists nervous). It’s a very 1960s novella, which is why I was surprised that it was written in 1939. The same is true of the second story, The Stolen Dormouse, in which the future is dominated by a sort of heraldric collection of corporations. I may have enjoyed this one even more, as it reads a bit like P.G. Wodehouse in parts. It’s funnier than the first story, though disappointingly shorter. Both tales play well with one another, and the book as a whole was lovely. Plus, L. Sprague De Camp is a really cool name. If that were a luxury shampoo, I’d buy it.

Rating: 9.3 Really Focused Mice

Questions for Critical Cover-Viewing:

  • What do you get when you ask for “The Works” at Tim Horton’s?
  • Is it more threatening to kiss your foe with your eyes open?
  • Is this the conclusion stupid people envisioned when they lobbed those ridiculous slippery-slope fallacies at gay marriage legalization?

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