"The Gateway to Never" is a 1972 science-fiction novel by A. Bertram Chandler, set in his shared universe of "The Rim". This book was published as an Ace Double, and in a relative rarity for that format, both sides were by A. Bertram Chandler.
When I first read a book by A. Bertram Chandler, set in his galactic rim setting, I used it as an example of generic 50's science-fiction. The second time I read one of his books, I was familiar enough to treat it on its own merits. By this third book, A. Bertram Chandler has become somewhat of a niche interest of mine, and I feel like I should apologize for labeling him a generic writer. Being familiar with him overall, I focused on what special things this book addressed.
This book also, as is often the case with Ace Doubles, has a cover blurb that has little relation to the story. "STRANDED ON THE HELL PLANET" it states, when the book is actually a combination between police procedural and philosophical debate, set on a volcanic resort planet where the "demons" are an alien race who work as waiters and stewards. This book features John Grimes, now a Commodore, who we first met in Road to the Rim as a young Ensign. Here, he is an established man, working a desk job in the merchant marine, when he is called up by some customs officials to help them deal with a drug smuggling problem that is effecting their planet A certain drug, called "Dreamy Weed", seems harmless at first, but sometimes triggers people into acting irrationally. "Dreamy Weed" isn't a stand in for marijuana, since the book says that "marihuana" is already commonly used. Grimes believes that the sentiment against Dreamy Weed is irrational, being philosophically inclined to let people behave and consume as they want to, but as a naval officer, he has been tasked with dealing with the smuggling. He and some customs officers go to the sulfurous, vulcanic resort planet to track down the intergalactic drug smugglers, and engage in some standard police work, as well as philosophical debate, about what they are doing.
This book had an interesting premise, and it is interesting to see the series progress from the rather staid standards of 1959, to the sexier standards of 1967, to a somewhat resigned acceptance of drug culture and use in 1972. The author was 60 years old when this book was published, and his description of the counter-culture and drug culture was much more charitable than could be expected. The biggest problem for me about this book was that it seems to have been edited roughly. Towards the end, we learn that the "Dreamy Weed" is able, (like Salvia Divinorum) to open real gateways between dimensions. But that gigantic concept, as long as the confrontation with the pirate smuggler ring, is confined to the last 20 or so pages of the book, with most of the book's 139 pages being a somewhat slow moving police procedural investigation story. Although I don't know for certain, I think that is probably the the fault of Ace's quick production schedule and overzealous editing.