In his fourth Dumarest novel, Kalin, the late and dearly missed E. C. Tubb created the masterpiece of a long career in SF. It is this story that drove the rest of the Dumarest Saga and made fans and publishers care about Earl Dumarest. With this story, the rest of the series rises above the pulp SF milieu in which it was created. Tubb’s perhaps most immortal line ever was “Her name was Kalin and she really was a witch.”
Tubb’s most exquisite creation is cosmic traveler Earl Dumarest’s second Madonna (as Japanese call the love interest of the moment in an episodic saga. cf “Torasan”. Torasan too was a wanderer like Dumarest though he limited his perambulations to the Japanese archipelago and never forgot where his home in Shibamata District, Tokyo was. The Japanese might use the term “Madonna” because Torasan’s loves, except one, were unrequited, but otherwise the similarity is intriguing)
Kalin is enigmatic. Tubb’s other heroines are straight forward – they are strong, jealous, in denial about something or secretly crave dependence on a strong man. Kalin did not fall for Earl, she simply saw the future, knew they would be together and was in unity with it. The only other heroine who had nearly Kalin’s literary self-awareness was “Nadine” in Tubb’s next to last instalment and it seemed fated that Nadine (who shared some of Kalin’s clairvoyance) would the woman to make Earl at last recover from his loss of Kalin. Alas, she too was lost.
Kalin was originally Keelan, an aristocrat of Solis, a backward bucolic planet. The aristocracy bred for bright red hair of a particular alluring shade, green eyes and almost translucent fair skin. Keelan was an exceptional beauty, sported a burning desire to live fully and exhibited considerable natural grace and charm. The aristocracy on Solis raised horses in an environment (surprise) very similar to Western Ireland. Keelan married a brilliant doctor named Brasque. On a honeymoon camping trip she was scratched by the beak of a Thren, large predatory birds responsible for increasing depredations of Solisian herds. Her inbred ancestry gifted her with an uncharacteristically dysfunctional immune system that quickly succumbed to a crippling, progressive, terribly disfiguring illness. Brasque sought a cure, eventually working in the laboratories of the Cyclan (on Earth? Doubtful) but instead found a remedy; a telepathic symbiote developed probably using genetic material from the telepathic animals from Gath. There were a dominant and a subservient symbiote pair and Brasque put the dominant half in Keelan and the subservient in a servant girl, a distant relative fleeing her family on Sard, who greatly resembled Keelan.
Knowing the Cyclan would kill him, Brasque gave the secret – a 15 unit molecular chain sequence – to Keelan in a ruby ring and jumped off the cliff into the sea from Keelan’s balcony. Keelan, now “Kalin,” fled Solis to travel for two years in her new and cherished freedom, won at bitter cost, earning her way as a fortune teller. Serendipitously and uniquely, Kalin’s symbiote made her prescient.
Earl found Kalin fleeing a ravening mob intent on killing her for witchcraft during “blood time” on planet Logos. Earl, still flush with Toy Shareholder Quara’s gift money, bought Kalin a high passage. Kalin soon foresaw they would be lovers, and the usually calculating Dumarest felt a powerful and uncharacteristic attraction as well. Kalin foresaw the ship was doomed, so she and Earl ejected into interstellar space in a plastic escape bubble. Against all odds they were rescued by a slaver ship headed for the mining world of Chron. The captain claimed their lives as salvage, but Earl used most of the rest of his money (in an electronic banking tattoo – In Earl’s universe as in Rome, slaves had their own money) to buy their freedom. With little money left they were stranded on Chron. They used sparingly Kalin’s ability to foresee the outcome of games of chance. Earl thought that risky and began to hunt Zards (large lethal lizards killed for meat that occasionally had diamond-like jewels in their skulls.) Earl organized some stranded travelers into a hunting party and found several Zards, one with an immense jewel. He and Kalin, rich now, returned to Solis –all but giving up his quest for Earth in his love for Kalin- where they discovered that Kalin’s brother had asked a Cyber, Mede, to help with the Thren eradication and Keelan’s treatment. Mede concealed his real objective of somehow questioning the comatose Keelan about Brasque.
Kalin sensing time was short (but yet hoping her sudden inability to see the future might merely mean the end of her gift) told Earl Brasque’s secret, gave him the ring and showed him her true body. He reaffirmed his love, she returned to the girl’s body and was talking to Earl when she lost consciousness. Earl found Mede torturing Keelan for Brasque's whereabouts. Mede killed Keelan/Kalin, and Earl defenestrated him to his death in the sea below the castle.
The monks of the Universal Brotherhood had been searching for the servant girl because she was the last fertile survivor of her family on Sard. When they found her they took her and Earl to their home planet Hope at the center of the Galaxy to meet her father. There Earl, broken-hearted at losing Kalin, resumed his search in the archives at Hope for his lost Earth.