Review: The Starmen

Leigh Brackett
1952

I was rather pleased to pick this up.  Check out the Close Up for some visual goodness.

In looking into the writing career of the author Leigh Brackett, I learned some interesting trivia.  Thanks to that fount of all human knowledge, Wikipedia, I discovered that she was, amongst many other notable things,  involved in the writing of several prominent movies, the most notable (from an SF perspective) was the original screenplay for The Empire Strikes Back.  It was eventually entirely rewritten, but she was included in the credits.  Check her out on wikipedia and at the ISFDB – very interesting reading.

This is a good story.  I especially enjoyed the way it began.  On a contemporary Earth, our hero Michael Trehearne (an interesting choice of name) is chasing his origins.  From the U.S. to England and finally to the French countryside he has searched and finally feels he is closing on the source of his difference.  There are no real hints at this being an SF tale until about chapter 4.  A refreshing start, and this is where we pick up his real adventure.

His difference is physical.  Not an obvious difference, but as a very successful test pilot for the USAF his ability to withstand heavy ‘G’s and other subtle differences leads him to suspect something special in his origins.  Though he doesn’t suspect how special.  He does indeed locate his ‘kin’ and thereafter his real adventure begins.  I’m trying to avoid giving too much away here, suffice to say that he embarks on a cosmic adventure with his erstwhile relatives and succeeds in helping to bring interstellar travel to the various peoples of the galaxy.

This is a typical space opera and not really unusual in any respect except for the cool device around which the story is built.  The monopoly the Vardda people have on interstellar travel and its jealous protection provides the interesting backdrop against which this story is penned and it is engaging.  While not being a page-turner, it is consistent with quality golden age space opera in that there is a constant upbeat pace and many interesting changes of location.

In the course of his adventures, Trehearne – what we would now consider true Star Trek or Star Wars fashion – discovers that the galaxy is peopled with many different races based on the basic humanoid form, and to Ms Brackett’s credit she does provide a somewhat reasonable explanation for this:

Trehearne had been amazed at the persistent recurrence of the humanoid form even when the root-stock from which a particular race had evolved was not even remotely human, and Yann had explained to him what every Vardda school-child was taught in General Biology, that the development of the humanoid form [….] rested simply upon the necessity of a species that intended to progress beyond the animal level of intelligence to evolve hands, or a workable substitute, and free them for use.
page 112

Cool.

In subsequent editions known as The Galactic Breed or The Starmen of Llyrdis, it is a well paced, expertly crafted and thoroughly enjoyable tale.  If you’re a fan of fine space opera, I highly recommend taking to the stars with The Starmen.

Advertisements

...Report in...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: