Archive for The Starmen

Review: The Starmen

Posted in 1952, 4:Stellar! with tags , on November 14, 2009 by Aaron

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.

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Close Up: The Starmen

Posted in 1952, Close Up with tags , , on November 2, 2009 by Aaron

closeupLeigh Brackett
1952

This was a snatch buy from eBay, one of those ones that comes up every so often. I have favorite searches set up so they are emailed to me every day. I know exactly when they arrive so I can get the latest listings as soon as I can. This was listed as a ‘Buy It Now or Best Offer’ auction. Well, as soon as I saw it was listed for only $60 I grabbed it. It’s always a risk – I could only see the cover – but it looked pretty good and this is quite a pricey title to pick up from a dealer.  You would have to pay at least $100 or so for for a copy in this condition from a dealer, and more likely much more.  There is a bit of foxing inside the jacket too.  Lets have a look.

Wonderful cover art from Rick Binkley.  Cover is nice and bright, no damage.  Just a bit of wrinkling at the top of the spine.  Concern becomes apparent when we remove the jacket.

You can see the mildewy stains on the front board and particularly on the spine.  The rear board is in much the same condition as the front.  If anyone knows how to perhaps remove or treat this issue somehow, please let me know.
The top and bottom view reveal no surprises, just a bit of dust spotting and discoloration on the top there.
And the bottom looks pretty good.  The spine sits nice and the block is hardly discolored at all.
Likewise the head and tail.  Just a touch of wrinkling at the head…
..and no problem on the tail.  Very, very nice, in fact.  There is no chipping and any rubbing is practically non-existent around the whole book.
I mentioned the foxing inside the cover, we can see a bit externally too.

The edge of the wrap-around is pretty mottled there.
Like a few other books, this one has that little touch that I really appreciate.  You can see the twelve signs of the zodiac introducing each chapter.

Fantastic.
The jacket has one small score with a small hole in it.  You can see it on the edge of the wrap-around center-pic below.

The rear looks great.  No significant staining or wear.  Super.

Year: 1952
Paid: $60
Art: Ric Binkley
Quantity: 5000 copies
Binding: Slate gray boards with black lettering on the spine.
GP Edition Notes: 1st edition so stated.
Comments: A nice copy. This is definitely a very good buy at $60.  Shame about the staining on the boards. Anyone know how to clean them??  Can they be cleaned or at least tidied up a little??
Expand Upon: wikipedia.com, Internet Speculative Fiction Database

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