Spacial Delivery — Gordon R. Dickson (1961)

SDPublisher: Ace Books. Inc.

Fourth printing, March 1983

Cover Art: Steve Hickman

Plot Synopsis (of cover): Major Tom, accompanied by his Kryptonian Pappy and the interstellar middleweight fisticuffs champion, takes the U.S.S. Suppository on a supposedly erotic adventure to the planet Similar-To-But-Totally-Not-Oregon. The jovial nature of the local fauna does little to cheer the Major after he finds out the brochure’s promise of “Riding Bear-back” was, in fact, not a typo.

Relatively Irrelevant Inside Text: Mankind vies with a race of space sadists resembling large, barrel-chested humans for prominence in the contest for galactic expansion. The novella is set on a tactically important planet where both races negotiate for friendly relations with the native inhabitants. The natives, in this case, are sentient Kodiak bears. It is exactly as amazing as it sounds. The book is funny, but it’s also got a fair bit of political intrigue to it. The curious, Klingon-esque honor code of the ursine beings (Delbians, they’re called) drives much of the narrative, and provides many chances for our protagonist fish-out-of-water to prove himself a friend to Bearkind. I approached this thin volume without knowing anything about it except that it had to be wonderful (the cover features bears and a spaceship—my internal argument concluded there), and so I am delighted to discover now that it is the first in a trilogy of books. The cycle is apparently collected in a volume titled, and I type this with no small amount of childish glee, “The Right To Arm Bears.”

Rating: 9.1 Wet Dog Smells

Questions for Critical Cover Viewing:

* If the bears are bare, and their hair down there is ensnared in a snare, would they pare it with care to the fellow’s despair should they err?

* Do you suppose the sickly greenish-yellow favored by the gentlemen observers is intended to instill nausea in the potentially peckish bearfolk?

* Is there a rural Canadian village in which bear riding actually takes place, where is it, and who knows a good charter flight service?

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