The Star-Crowned Kings — Robert Chilson (1975)

20170117_041753(0).jpgPublisher: DAW Books

First DAW Edition, 1975

Cover Art: Kelly Freas

Plot Synopsis (of cover): In the early part of the twenty-first century, the God of the Covenant broke two millennia of silence to His mortal children. In their adolescence, they were not prepared to gaze upon His holy visage, but the Lord knew that they had grown, and He rightly trusted in their capacity to be shown upon by His countenance. The Lord gathered unto Him the world’s greatest minds to communicate with the inventors, thinkers, and creatives who had best stoked the spark of free will within themselves. Though many were skeptics, the nature of the Lord was such that, upon witnessing Him, they were divested of all doubt. “My children,” God boomed in a language understood by all gathered, “you please me in your brilliance. My greatest task was to create you in my image, and I have watched on high to see you grow into architects in your own right.” One scientist spoke up to say, “Gee, thanks, God! We try real hard.” God continued, “There are many wonders that I have made, many mysteries great and small, and you have embraced an attitude of discovery that lightens my heart.” The scientist replied, “Well, that’s pretty high praise coming from you, G.” God’s right eye twitched ineffably. “Right. Well, if there’s one thing I’ve done that was meant to inspire you people, it was making the cosmos. It’s huge, and strange, and it’s got massive explosions, but I noticed you guys have stopped federal funding to your space program.” The scientist replied, “G-man, come on. Space is dead. The money’s in boner pills and cholesterol meds. My own research involves creating a low-calorie, gluten-free bread that keeps you rock hard for a week.” God sighed. “Look, I really wish you folks would pay less attention to your genitals and more attention to innovation. Any way you can get some of that boner pill funding back into NASA?” The scientist scratched his stubble. “Jeez, God, I don’t know. Can you meet us halfway?”

Relatively Irrelevant Inside Text: So, first of all, I’m pretty sure the girl on the cover is meant to represent the protagonist’s sister, and given said protagonist’s preferences, he’d approve of the artwork. Enough said about that, because this is actually a pretty boffo read (anyway, there’s a sort of casual attitude regarding incest in the literature of the time, and the initiated should be well used to it by now). I like how quickly power seems to corrupt the hero, and how quickly said trope is dismissed as commonplace—everyone expects you to become a dick when you’re endowed with godlike powers, so why not just skip all the emotional rigmarole and go straight to killing people with your mind? I can’t think of a reason, either. An interesting sort of theme permeates the work, as the supposition that one can transcend one’s caste is presented consistently throughout. If one keeps that in mind, and examines the moral at the end, one finds a sentiment rather antithetical to that commonly conferred by the American Dream. Given that this is the disillusioned 1970s, this is a spoiler only to the innocents among you. To you, I recommend this family-friendly tome.

Rating: 9.0 Amish Spacecraft

Questions for Critical Cover-Viewing:

  • Is this what you get when you call a 1-900 number from SETI?
  • Given the relative size of that space ship, how many civilizations exhausted their natural resources in the production of that much leave-in conditioner?
  • Given that the theoretical Torricelli’s Trumpet cannot be mathematically reversed, how does one go about engineering a Diva Cup of sufficient volume?

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