Book Review: Night of Delusions by Keith Laumer (also published as Knight of Delusion)
Florin (Colonel Florin back during the War) is a private security specialist who’s on vacation when he is called upon by government operatives. They hire him to perform bodyguard duty for a senator. It seems this senator has gone insane, and the treatment is subjecting the politician to a live-fire role-playing session to shock him back into sanity. Florin’s job is making sure the senator survives the treatment.
It rapidly becomes apparent that something’s not right here; and more not right than Florin would expect from secretive government work. Are those agents really from the government, and if so, whose? Is the senator insane or more in tune with reality than anyone else? Is Florin himself even really Florin?
The book is filled with short chapters, and frequent shifts in apparent planes of reality; there may or may not be a “dream machine” or psychic aliens involved. Due to the nature of the story, the information Florin and the reader are presented with at any given moment ranges from suspect to clearly fake. This sort of thing can be done very well, but here it is a confusing mess with an arbitrary stopping point and probable explanation.
When this book came out, Mr. Laumer was suffering from a health crisis that was preventing him from writing steadily, but this had already been partially completed beforehand. It’s possible that his health problems were responsible for the relatively poor quality of this book; it’s much weaker than his usual.
There’s one important female character, Miss Regis, who keeps popping up in the various realities, and appears to be sucked into the action from the outside, which was not part of the plan. She acts primarily as a sounding board for Florin’s ramblings, and an emotional anchor. (Notably, in a section where Florin has gained godlike power, he beds several women, and Miss Regis is completely absent, but the women seem to be echoes of her.)
Just when this story is supposed to be taking place is also confused; parts take place in what’s clearly at least a century later than when the book was written, but in other places prices are as they were in the 1950s. This is easily handwaved by the shifting nature of reality in the story. It may or may not take place in the same universe as the Bolo stories as one of the tanks from those makes a cameo appearance.
I can only recommend this book to Laumer completeists; if you are interested in books where the nature of reality is uncertain, the works of Philip K. Dick are better at it.