The Man Who Used the Universe

by Alan Dean Foster
Reviewed date: 2021 Nov 24
Rating: 3
316 pages
cover art

The cover asks "Was he savior or devil, master criminal or saint?" He was a devil and a master criminal. Alan Dean Foster writes well, but I confess at this point in my life I am weary of antiheroes. I don't even want ambiguous heroes.

Kees vaan Loo-Macklin is the protagonist, and he rises from a run-of-the-mill hired goon to crime boss to overlord of the entire galaxy. Along the way he kills with no conscience. He uses people, discards them without a second thought. For example, here is how he discards his wife:

"You woke me up to tell me that?"

"That and one other thing, Tambu. We are separating."

Her inviting smile vanished. She seemed to age a dozen years in the space of a moment. The last star cluster flickered out overhead, leaving the marvelous canopy again only a sheet of silvery metal cloth, cold and empty. Cold and empty as the man hovering near her.

She sat up, propping herself with her hands and swinging her long legs over the side of the bed. "That's not funny, Kees."

"It's not meant to amuse you."


"We are separating. To go our different ways, proceed individually with our lives."

She shook her head slowly. "I don't...what have I done?"

"You've done nothing.. . overtly. This is necessary." His expression was grim. "You're gaining control over me, Tambu. Long ago I vowed I would never, ever permit that. Would never let another being gain the slightest control over my life."

"I've left you alone," she argued. "I never questioned where you went or what you did, even when you were gone months at a time. I've followed your lead in everything because I saw instantly how important it was to you. How have I exerted the slightest control over you? I don't understand."

He continued looking away from her, though whether to spare himself or her she could not tell. "Tambu, I believe I may be falling in love with you."


He made a curt, angry gesture with one hand, slicing the air. "Love is the most powerful kind of control. I will not permit it, anymore than I would any other form of control.

I guess we're supposed to be impressed with what a stone-cold badass Loo-Macklin is. He threw away his wife because he started to love her, and love is weak, it's for fools. Hoo-rah!


Kees vaan Loo-Macklin is evil. Wicked. Selfish. A weak and contemptible man. But Alan Dean Foster is not done, no. He must show us how, even as cruel as Loo-Macklin is, people can't help but love him, because even despite how he treats her, his wife loves him still.

"The marriage seemed advisable at the time," he went on. "Certain important outside elements found it mollifying. And I was curious myself, never having tried it before. I did not expect... did not expect myself to be so threatened. It frightens me."

"Kees, Kees." She sighed tiredly. "Do you think that makes you unique?"

"That is part of the trouble, Tambu. I am unique." He stated it flatly, without pride. "I will not risk all that I have done."

"Of course you won't. Since I can't change your mind, I will abide by your wishes, Kees. Because you see, regardless of how you feel about me, I've come to love you."

He started to comment, decided not to and strode from the room. He did not look back.

Two weeks later the word arrived that Tambu Tabuhan Loo-Macklin had died on Terra, in her new crag house, of a carefully measured overdose of narcophene. Loo-Macklin accepted the information quietly and said nothing further about it to anyone, including Basright, though that sensitive old man noticed a slight slumping of his master's shoulders from that day on.

Kees vaan Loo-Macklin is a bad man. Tambu should have stabbed him. I do not like the way Foster made Tambu fall in love with him anyway, even in the moment he was destroying her, and then kill herself a paragraph later when she could no longer be with him.

Anyway, Loo-Macklin manipulates affairs throughout the galaxy, to get himself eventually appointed the supreme ruler of everything. It's a fun story and Foster tells it well, but this sort of story is never quite believable. Nobody is that competent and that stone-cold tough, and anyway, I don't find that kind of person admirable.

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