Derai by E C Tubb
Earl Dumarest on his quest to find his home planet Earth takes on the job of escorting home a runaway noble girl who seems to be insane. For Dumarest, this seems to be an easy, lucrative job that will bring him one step closer to his goal, but things don't turn out as neat as expected. The girl Derai's instability covers a dangerous secret–one which places her at the centre of plots and intrigues of galactic proportions and which throws Dumarest up against his enemy the Cyclans, the human computers bent on universal domination.
Derai is an interesting book because its not only a marvelous page-turner that highlights Tubb's ability to create exotic, barbarous and dangerous worlds, but it is also pivotal to the emerging formula of the Dumarest Saga. The second book in the 33 volume series, Derai is where Tubb starts to develop the main characteristics of the story. Until now, Dumarest's wanderings have been voluntary and he's always had the option of stopping and settling down–provided he can find a safe planet to do so. Put in Derai. Dumarest is given both a powerful emotional shove from his tragic love affair with the title character and by coming into direct conflict with the Cyclan in a way that changes Dumarest's dislike for them into hatred and soon turning the Cyclan into an enemy that makes Dumarest as much a fugitive as a seeker.
It's a tidy book filled with action and intrigue that does not disappoint as well as Tubb's ability to play with ideas of life and death that are surprisingly subtle and disturbing. It's not only of interest to the casual reader who wants an easy read on a wet afternoon, but also for the writer wanting to learn how to craft a formula and keep it fresh over nearly three dozen iterations.