Publisher: Ace Books
Second Ace Edition, 1963
Cover Art: Ed Emshwiller
Plot Synopsis (of cover): “Come on, Captain Macdonald!” shouted the Princess. “We must continue our mission, regardless of your personal tragedy!” Captain Connor Macdonald, only half hearing her, spoke quietly to himself. “Ah dinnae mean tae,” he whispered. “Aye, he wa’ a bit wee, but still, ah ha’ent given ‘im but a tap.” The Princess was becoming more agitated, visibly and audibly. “Captain, please! The rockets are on the launchpad, and they’re clearly prepping their engines! Don’t you see the plumes of toxic gas that we need to run into unprotected?” Captain Macdonald continued his monologue, “How dae one sooch as Ah ha’e so much maucht o’er the livin’ o’ anoter? Clean off, his heid! Clean off!” Turning to him in frustration, the Princess shouted, “Connor! The Future Bugle is the only signal that will cause the enemy to stop the launch! You must come with me and sound it, lest they blow up the Museum of Historic Mesas, and the Mesa of Historic Museums right along with it! And that’s where they’ve secreted away all of my melanin!” “Poof, daed, joost like that. Joost a biff, an’ ye be a gone corbie. Fit fer a mort kist.” The Princess had had enough. She screamed, “Fine! You punched the guard’s head off, now you’re sad about it! I get it! Take it with you! Can we please just move on before the writer runs out of Scottish slang?” Then Captain Macdonald responded.
Relatively Irrelevant Inside Text: Poul Anderson has a talent for perspective that shines through in this short exploration of empire and cultural adaptation. A Russian nesting doll of fish-out-of-water, Star Ways (snort if you like, but Star Wars wouldn’t come out for another twenty-two years and George Lucas never fucked up an Ace Paperback) is, if not a paradigm-shifting piece, an excellent example of a short novel with a soul. It’s a small part of the Brobdingnagian “Psychotechnic League” series, which I have not read, but Anderson apparently wrote them in such a way as to let the reader make their own connections, so I don’t feel bad about it, and won’t feel bad about reading others in the series out of sequence. In part, that’s also because this novel was lovely and sad. It reflects Anderson’s growing discontent with his own political philosophy as it changed through the 1950s, and you can see that divide in his characters. So, yes, it’s a good book. It may make you feel things, however, so citizens of Libria be warned.
Rating: 8.9 Empathic Aliens Better Than Counselor Troi (because they’d have to be)
Questions for Critical Cover-Viewing:
- Can I write my physics dissertation on the effects of reduced gravity on wedding tackle under a kilt?
- Was this a teleporter malfunction or a holodeck malfunction?
- Sir, did you get those thighs on Mars? Because they are out of this world!