Miners in The Sky – Murray Leinster (1967)
‘Dunne was a crystal miner among the stars until he discovered the biggest strike in space.
Drifting through the rings of Thothmes with a mysterious lady stowaway, the lonely hunter soon realised that every miner in this golden mist was out to get him – and the treasure.
Even as bloodshed spreads across the sky, eyes both inhuman and unseen watched, waiting to close in…’
Blurb from the Sphere 1968 paperback edition.
The Unobtainium in this novel is Abyssal Crystals, found in the rings of gas giants and created under such pressure that they are strong enough to rip diamonds apart. They are immensely valuable and – amongst other things – are used as power conductors in space vehicles.
Dunne is a miner of the rings of Thothmes and has just discovered a rich vein on one of the rocks that drift through the rings. Returning to Outlook, the mining post and leaving his partner behind to guard the find, he discovers that his partner’s sister has turned up demanding to see her brother. When Dunne’s ship is blown up he deduces that someone is after his claim. Borrowing a lifeboat he sets off to rescue his partner, not realising that the sister has stowed away on board.
Someone is trying to kill them. Is it because the other miners suspect they have discovered the legendary Big Rock Candy Mountain, a semi-mythical rock packed with Abyssal Crystals? Or is it the Gooks, the never seen aliens of the miners’ tales who kill the unwary or take them off into the depths of the gas giant?
Leinster conjures up the setting of the Rings very well and manages to establish a sense of scale in a system of rings where a mountain sized rock can be easily lost and never found again.
Presumably based on the lawless American West in the days of The Gold Rush, complete with a rather quaint attitude to women, it’s a short but workmanlike novel with an intriguing setting.