The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

Harold Shea, a psychologist for the Garaden Institute in Ohio, hungers for travel and adventure. His coworkers tease him about the activities he takes up and subsequently drops, such as fencing and horseback riding. None of them satisfies his longing.

Sheas superior, Dr. Reed Chalmers, has hypothesized the existence of parallel worlds that can be reached by people who can attune themselves to receive a different series of impressions of reality. These parallel worlds have been made known to humankind through such classic works of literature as Edmund Spensers The Faerie Queene (1590 and 1596). The possibility of travel to these other worlds captures Sheas imagination, and in a rash moment, he puts Chalmers hypothesis to the test.

Aiming for the lush green fields of the Ireland of Cuchulainn and Queen Maev, Shea ends up instead in the snowy, frozen wasteland of Scandinavian myth in the first story of the series, “The Roaring Trumpet.” There, Shea embarks on a quest with the Norse gods Thor and Loki to recover Thors great hammer from the giants. The hammer is needed in the coming legendary battle, the Ragnarök. Although Shea, a mere mortal, proves useful in recovering it, he and another god, Heimdall, are taken prisoner. Shea again proves his worth by escaping with Heimdall from the giants dungeon by the use of psychology—a foreign concept to the gods—and magic. At the Gates of Hell, however, as Heimdall blows his trumpet, signaling the beginning of the battle, Shea is thrust back into his own world.

In this first adventure, Shea discovers the secrets of travel to parallel universes. He discovers, much to his dismay, that his modern tools, such as a Colt .38 revolver, a flashlight, and a box of matches, do not function there. Instead, he finds that his fencing lessons stand him in good stead. Magic works because the...

(The entire section is 765 words.)