Archive for Starman’s Quest

The Complete Book of Outer Space – Part 10 of 14

Posted in 10 - Interstellar Flight, 1953, The Complete Book of Outer Space with tags , , , on August 9, 2009 by Aaron

Interstellar Flight

This installment was written by Leslie R. Shepherd, then technical director of the British Interplanetary Society.  It is a very interesting piece, as many of the challenges and much of the science haven’t changed a lot in the intervening years.  Distance and time being the two major considerations along with possible methods of propulsion to help overcome these issues.
A couple of the observations within reminded me of Brian Aldiss’ novel Non-Stop, A.E. van Vogt’s short story ‘Far Centarus’ in Men Against the Stars and another Gnome Press book Starman’s Quest by Robert Silverberg.

View this document on Scribd

I don’t know what the next chapter is, I’m in New Zealand at present and this book isn’t.  You’ll have to wait a couple of weeks to find out…


Review II: Starman’s Quest

Posted in 1958, 2:Orbital, Audio Books, Review with tags , , on July 25, 2009 by Aaron

Robert Silverberg

This book has recently become available at  I thought I’d take the opportunity to listen to it and feed back the experience into the review I did a few months ago.

Unfortunately, it didn’t do anything to change my opinion.  The body of the story is great, right up until Alan inherits his money and takes on development of the Cavour drive.  As I pointed out in the original Review, the big disappointment is the end and this is exacerbated in audio form.  With audio books, it is very easy to just switch off for a minute or so.  If you do that towards the end of this book, as you switch back in you will wonder what the hell is going on as the story progresses in giant leaps.  And all of a sudden it’s over.  As I did with the book, I kind of felt a little cheated out of a fulfilling read (or listen, as the case may be).

It’s frustrating, as there is some great material and ideas here.  Despite all this, the book is well read by Dawn Larsen.  It’s very easy to listen to her voice and she is well paced.  All in all, Starman’s Quest is worth reading or listening to, but pay attention at the end.

Good things…

Posted in Audio Books with tags , , , , , on June 13, 2009 by Aaron

A couple of good things have happened over the past couple of days…

First, I have four more books on their way to me, Address: Centauri, Space Lawyer, SF ’58: The Year’s Greatest Science Fiction and Fantasy and Renaissance.  I’m expecting them late next week or early the week after.

Second, the audio book version of Starman’s Quest is completed and available online at  I’m looking forward to listening to that.  I’ve been listening to a few early SF books from them lately, they have been all very good.

Last, This Fortress World is very good!!  I’m about half way through so far, expect the Close Up to be avaiable sometime soon.

A little news…

Posted in Audio Books with tags , , , , , , , on May 28, 2009 by Aaron

I finished The Shrouded Planet last night and went straight on to it’s sequel, The Dawning Light.  I’m gonna do a double header Close Up and likewise for the Review.  Should be interesting.  So far, I’m enjoying the story very much.  It’s building nicely in a well constructed world.

I visited last night to check it out.  I posted about it a while ago, but they have a few free audio books from Gnome Press authors.  There is only one Gnome Press book – Plague Ship by Andrew North (Andre Norton).  I’ll read the book before listening to that, but I downloaded Murray Leinster‘s Space Tug, which I’m listening to at the moment.  Starman’s Quest is currently a project at Librivox, I signed up to be notified when it’s done.  I’m looking forward to that.  I’ve often toyed with the idea of doing some of the Gnome stuff for audio.  But I don’t have a clue how to determine what is in the public domain, and what isn’t.

There has been very little of interest come up on eBay lately.  Things are a little slow.

Review: Starman’s Quest

Posted in 1958, 2:Orbital, Review with tags , , on February 25, 2009 by Aaron

Robert Silverberg

I don’t have much time for Robert Silverberg’s books.  Admittedly I haven’t read many but what I have read has never really engaged me.  He seems to be a writer with many ideas, but with some kind of inability to bring them to deserving life on the page.  Two cases in point: ‘Kingdoms of the Wall’ and ‘Sailing to Byzantium’.  In Kingdoms the protagonist scales a huge mountain and passes through different cultures and habitats on the way.  In Sailing to Byzantium, there is a sort of time-traveling party that jaunts from one civilization to the next having a good time.  Both cool concepts (the latter being based on a poem by William Butler Yeats), but neither left me satisfied.  Actually I really enjoyed Kingdoms when I read it about 15 years ago, but I wasn’t a ‘mature’ reader back then.  Or maybe I’m a snob now.  Dunno…

This book, Starman’s Quest, doesn’t satisfy me either, though there are a couple of interesting ideas presented.  The story is simple enough, I’ll outline it here and there’s not much danger of spoiling it for you as the outcome is telegraphed quite early on.

17 year old Spacer boy has twin brother who jumps ship on Earth.
Boy does an interstellar return run,  brother is now 9 years older.
Boy locates brother and shanghais him back on board.
Boy stays on Earth for 9 years and develops hyperspacial drive.
Boy employs the new technology to catch up to the ship.
Boy is now the same age as his twin, family is reunited and all are happy.

The story is not complicated, a very simple plot.  There are some shortcomings in the structure which I’ll talk about later, but there are a couple of cool ideas in the book.

The first interesting idea is the community of ‘Spacers’ – the crews of these interstellar ships.  Due to the supposed ‘Fitzgerald Contraction‘, Spacers live much longer relative to their planet-bound brethren.  A few weeks in space at near lightspeed can equal many years of ‘normal’ time.  Because of this Spacers have trouble adjusting to life between runs – the substantial societal and technological changes in their absence are difficult to cope with.  Existing in their own societies on board ship and in special enclaves at spaceports, they rarely interact with the general population.  Indeed, they also suffer a certain amount of discrimination.  Our ‘boy’, Alan, is only 17 subjective years old but several hundred objective years old…  or is it the other way ’round…  Anyway, this idea doesn’t require a leap of imagination or creativity to bring about, but the two different societies co-existing is a cool concept for a story.

The other interesting idea is the structure of Earth’s society at the time of the action.  Well, the structure of ‘York City’ at least.  There is a caste system in place operating in a kind of socialist police state.  It’s insinuated at various points in the book that the authorities brook no nonsense.  Citizens also have to wear, or are otherwise implanted with an ID chip.  People are born into ‘guilds’ that determine their method of income and place of residence.  For those who have no guild there is a ‘free’ guild.  One of the more respectable forms of income for members of this guild is gambling.  It isn’t portrayed as oppressive as it sounds, citizens have a decent amount of freedom and the tracking technology seems to be available to all if you want to locate somebody.

The structure and pacing of the book is not quite right.  The meat of the story should have been, I feel, in the development of the Cavour Drive.  We are introduced to interstellar propulsion early.  We learn the distinction between and the history of the slower-than-light ‘Lexman Drive’, and the theoretical and as yet undeveloped hyperspacial ‘Cavour Drive’.  We learn that Alan has a dream to develop the latter and open up the stars.  Yet the bulk of the book is dedicated to the location of his brother and his acquisition of the funds to facilitate development.  The actual development of the Cavour Drive is glossed over quite rapidly – only two chapters; a scant 8 pages were taken in locating the Cavour’s lost notes, the development and testing of the drive and the location and reunion of the family.

Something else that bugged me was the Rat character.  A small cutesy but very intelligent alien that could speak well.  It served as Alan’s conscience/advice dispenser.  Totally unnecessary I thought and I found it difficult to take seriously.  I can draw an unfavorable comparison to Heinlein here.  In many of his books he has a similar character – Willis in Red Planet and Lummox in The Star Beast to name two.  Alien characters that rarely verbalise but act as efficient sounding boards for the protagonists.  Admittedly, those two characters are crucial plot elements in those two books, but this makes the too-verbose Rat seem all the more superfluous.

Continuing the parallel with Heinlein, his 1956 book Time for the Stars has a similar theme in that a set of twins is separated by interstellar travel and suffer asynchronous aging.

I absolutely enjoy reading my Gnome Press books; I take great pleasure in the experience no matter the quality of the story.  I have to be a little harsh though and say that this book could should have been at least half again as long.  The final third of the book read like a slippery slope – it just kept gaining pace until it fell off the edge.  It began so well with those nice ideas looking for a suitable vehicle.  Pity the wheels fell off at the end.

Close Up: Starman’s Quest

Posted in 1958, Close Up with tags , , on February 24, 2009 by Aaron

closeupRobert Silverberg

Nice.  There’s not much really to say about this book.  The pictures speak for themselves.  The cover is beautiful and white, though perhaps a little yellowed on the spine.  No tearing or noticeable scuffing.  The attractive cover art looks good too – my wife admired it, so it must be…

Likewise the boards are great.  A little bruising on the spine extremities, but no problem.

A closer look at the spine extremities reveals that it really is in great condition.  Note the dust jacket is pristine here.  Super.

There are a couple of things I have questions about.  One is the trimming of the dust jacket.

You can se it’s trimmed mighty close to the text on the flaps.  This is evident in all four locations.  It’s clearly not where a library covering has been trimmed off the jacket (which is the first thing that came to mind)  as I have also seen this on another copy of this book.  I think it must be a mismatch between the dimensions of the dust jacket and the book itself – not all GP books are the same height; they do vary slightly.  So I think they printed the jackets thinking the books were going to be slightly taller and they required a bit of trimming to make them fit.

The other thing is the trimming of the block.

Aside from the typical Gnome Press browning, you can see some rough edges there.  Does anyone know what causes this??  I have seen this on many first edition books.  I am tempted to say in this case it is probably a dull guillotine blade that has torn the pages.  But in others it looks like they just didn’t trim the leaves that came from the edges of the printed block.

Year: 1958
Paid: $23
Art: Stan Mack
Quantity: 5000  (2000 remaindered).
Binding: Currey priority ‘A’ binding – Dark blue boards with yellow lettering to spine.
GP Edition Notes: 1st edition so stated on copyright page.
Comments: Great price for a book in excellent condition. Any illumination on the trimming of the flaps and block would be greatly appreciated.
Expand Upon:, Internet Speculative Fiction Database


Finally on their way…

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , on February 24, 2009 by Aaron

Jean, the very kind and patient person off whom I got The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag, finally received a cheque the other day that I had sent from NZ.  It took 3 weeks to arrive!!  No wonder they call it snail mail…  So, posted to me yesterday were Sixth Column by Robert Heinlein, Tom Godwin‘s The Survivors and Children of the Atom by Wilmar Shiras.  I’m especially looking forward to another Heinlein 1st edition.

Also yesterday I won The Complete Book of Outer Space, a collection of non-fiction edited by one Jeffrey Logan.  I think this is about the only thing he ever did.

Finished Starman’s Quest yesterday too.  I’ll have the Close Up posted soon and the Review probably by the weekend.