My life in outer space

Archive for March, 2015

Valiant (Lost Fleet #04) – Jack Campbell (2008)

Valiant (The Lost Fleet, #4)

Continuing his journey back to Alliance space, Captain ‘Black Jack’ Geary has stress aplenty.
A decisive victory over the Syndics was blighted by losses of his own ships and by the fact that the Syndics destroyed one of their hypergates, unleashing deadly radiation on an inhabited Syndic planet. Subsequently Geary was warned discreetly that worm programmes were at work in the system, viruses which would have disabled ships’ engines during a hyperspace jump and ensuring that Geary and several other major ships did not return to normal space.
Additionally, two of his Captains exhibited ‘cowardice’ in not coming quickly enough to the aid of other ships. One of the Captains let slip that their orders may have come from elsewhere. While transferring the two captains to another ship the shuttle exploded, killing both of them.
So, having to cope with possible moles within his own fleet and a personal life that has become somewhat complex, Geary is under enormous stress to keep the fleet together and get them home with as little damage as possible.
The journey continues…

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Necroscope II – Wamphyri – Brian Lumley (1988)

Necroscope II: Wamphyri! (Necroscope, # 2)

One feels that Lumley regretted having killed off Harry Keogh in the first novel, ‘Necroscope‘, and felt duty bound to bring him back. Harry is not exactly dead but in an incorporeal state wandering around in the Moebius continuum while tethered psychically to his unborn son.
Much of the narrative is given over to the backstories of Faethor and Thibor Ferenczy, ancient vampires of Romania. Thibor, one will recall from ‘Necroscope I’ is the one from whom Boris Dragosani received his vampire egg.
This is not the only way however that vampires can create new vampires. Following a skiing accident, Georgina and Ilyan Bodescu end up on top of Thibor’s grave. Ilyan is dead, but Georgina is alive and pregnant. While she lies there unconscious the insidious pseudopods of Thibor’s vampire flesh enter her body and infect the unborn child.
And so, in England, Yulian Bodescus grows up and inevitably draws the attention of the UK E-branch who elect to contact their Russian counterparts to fight against a common foe, aided by the ghostly presence of Harry Keogh.
The good guys have to battle both vampires and the KGB, which makes this part-horror, part spy thriller with a little SF rationale thrown in for good measure. Lumley’s vampires are symbiotic beasties that live within the human body, giving the host strength and longevity in return for blood, although here Lumley slightly confuses the issue with Yulian’s christening, an Omen type scene, which seems to suggest a supernatural religious element, given that the baby so vehemently did not want to be baptised that storms erupted and the vicar died of shock. Logically, it should not matter to these vampires whether they are baptised or not.
Lumley orchestrates the entire shooting-match very well and pulls the threads together into a satisfactory denouement. The author, for all his faults – this novel in particular is a little overburdened with characters, many of whom are one-dimensional – has a solid fan base. Although the Necroscope books will never be thought of as great literature, Lumley has certainly brought some new blood and a novel concept to the vampire genre.


The Stolen Sun – Emil Petaja (1967)

The Stolen Sun (The Cosmic Kalevala, #3)

‘He had to bridge 100 generations…

Like an umbilical cord, the cortical hook-up linking Wayne Panu to his ship involved them in an unheard-of rapport, even in the ranks of the unique esper-pilot fleet that warred against the world-engulfing Mephiti.
In the outward surge into the far-flung galactic worlds for colonization Man had found but few habitable planets–but now even those few worlds were challenged. The Mephiti–dread, all-embracing fog forms–were Man’s match as they fought him planet for planet in the race for habitable space.

And only Wayne Panu, with his extraordinary ESP talents that went beyond the mind and the here and now–whose senses were strangely linked in the past to the heroes and legends of the ancient Kalevala–could retaliate in this fantastic war that devoured suns and swept across the ages of eternity.’

Blurb from the G-618 1967 Ace Doubles edition.

Wayne Panu is a military space pilot, attuned to a sentient ship, his mission is to destroy sentient life on habitable worlds. The weight of this responsibility is taking its toll. After his partner is killed, Wayne sets the controls to a dangerous and ridiculous limit and arrives in a Universe where he finds himself adjacent to a large copper spaceship with oars protruding from its hull.
An old man, Wainomoinen, takes him to a dying world where an evil witch, Louhi, has stolen the sun.
This is the third novel in which Petaja has adapted excerpts from the great Finnish saga, the Kalevala.
It is one thing to employ fantasy elements in a science fiction novel and rationalise them as futuristic science. It is another to move from a purely rational SF scenario to one of pure fantasy. That is not to say that it should not be done, but that it should be done in a way that works, which it does not do here.
Wayne is taken in by the fairly primitive Vanhat people, and within the space of a few pages is talking like a character from some Arthurian tale.
Perhaps given a longer page length this might have been something a little more special, since there is a clever conceit in the novel that the unfolding of events is dependent very much on Wayne’s character; what he was and what he has become.
A far better blending of the rational and the fantastic was carried out by Ian Watson in ‘Lucky’s Harvest’ and ‘The Fallen Moon’ which again takes the Kalevala as its principal source, to much better effect.


The Golden People – Fred Saberhagen (1964)

The Golden People

‘THEY AMENDED THE LAWS OF NATURE

PLANETEERS GO HOME!

The planet was called Golden in honor of the planeteer whose ship had crashed there years before. It was an Earth-type world, with humanoid natives, and other creatures that were–something less.

Or maybe more, for almost all of the planet was covered by an invisible Field which blanked radar, damped the power of the Earthmen’s stunners, immobilized their robots and caused watches to run backward. No machine or weapon more complicated than the lever or knife could work inside the Field.

Which meant that the Space Force had to revert to the primitive to explore the world of Golden. And obviously, someone or something hidden in the vast reaches of the planet had planned it that way. . .’

Blurb from the M-103 1964 Ace Double paperback edition

One of Saberhagen’s novels of Planeteers, a semi-military organisation who survey and assess newly discovered and developed planets. Their remit seems fairly wide and includes some enforcement duties.
The structure is somewhat awkward, since it is broken into three distinct time periods which stunts the flow of the narrative slightly.
The book starts in a children’s home where Adam Mann gets into a fight protecting young Ray Kedro from bullies.
Ray, it turns out, is one of a hundred ‘Jovian Children’ who were the subject of eugenics experiments on Ganymede. The children have some ESP capabilities, and concerned authorities have taken them into care. Very soon, however, they are returned to Dr Nowell on Ganymede.
Much later, Adam, distraught at the death of his wife, joins the Planeteers and is teamed up with Boris Brazil, the hero of ‘The Water of Thought’.
Adam and Boris are posted to the planet Golden which is covered by a mysterious field beneath which nothing electronic or mechanically complex will function. There is one area where the field is absent, and humans have built a settlement here, trading with the local alien natives. The major predator is the ‘geryon’, a malformed beast with a long prehensile neck and disturbingly human features. They hunt in packs and torment their prey.
When Adam disobeys orders and tries to save a young native girl he fails and almost loses his own life.
The narrative jumps forward several years. Adam has resigned and become a trapper on Golden, selling furs to human tourists. Just then, one of the Jovian people, Merit, arrives with her non-Jovian husband and Ray Kedro. We learn that the one hundred have gained significant influence in human business and affairs.
Then, someone tries to kill Merit’s husband. This, the secrets of the one hundred and the mystery of the aliens who built the forcefield all seem to be connected,.
It’s a good read and one which hasn’t dated too badly as long as one doesn’t dig too deep into the scientific aspects (which are few).
In this and ‘The Water of Thought‘ Saberhagen raises issues of colonialism and exploitation, making it clear that humans have processed every world they’ve found for their own benefit. It’s a point made subtly but it comes across.
Humans, consequently, are faced with the possibility of being exploited themselves since the Jovian children (led by Ray Kedro) virtually control human society. It’s possibly no coincidence that Saberhagen wrote Kedro as a blonde. Kedro develops a master-race fixation and sees the Jovian Children as a separate and superior race. It’s fascinating that the idea of Homo Superior in this form i.e. evolved children being born to human parents in the space of a genration, was a product mainly of the 50s and 60s, a time when there was a wholesale change in the behaviour of young people in the wake of the Second World War, and an ongoing fear of nuclear destruction or radiation. ‘The Midwich Cuckoos’, ‘The Chrysalids’, Zenna Henderson’s ‘People’ stories etc. all stoke the fuel of a mass paranoia particularly in the States, where paranoia is more or less compulsory, at least among Republicans.


The Spheres of Heaven – Charles Sheffield (2001)

The Spheres of Heaven

The sequel to ‘The Mind Pool’ is set much later. Humanity has been forbidden to travel into alien space via the network of wormholes controlled by a Federation of three alien races. This is because humans are deemed to be a violent and volatile species.
The novel begins with a Government official tracking down Chan Dalton to offer him a special assignment.
It would appear that a wormhole gateway has appeared which is unconnected to the alien network and is also accessible by humans.
Ships have been sent through to investigate but none have returned. Would Chan Dalton to be willing to reassemble his old crew and investigate?
What follows is an adventure in another universe where the humans have to deal with both inimical lobster-like aliens and the fundamentalist pacifist beliefs of their own alien crew. In truth, Sheffield could have made more of this internal battle of ideologies but that is a minor flaw. The only other problem with this book is the title, which has no relevance to anything in the text.
Like most of Sheffield’s work, this is highly readable, highly entertaining space opera which contains some excellent characterisation and some complex and interesting aliens, if a tad anthropomorphic. In its way, Sheffield’s work is very traditional, albeit with a modern gloss. It falls very much into the Romantic camp although Sheffield doesn’t shirk on the physics and it never falls into the trough of Star Trek technobollocks. There’s a themic thread of addiction which covers both the humans that have been addicted to various substances and Friday Indigo who becomes a slave to the lobster-folk who can stimulate his pleasure centres directly.
Sheffield left enough open for a sequel here but sadly it would appear that never transpired.


Chung Kuo I – The Middle Kingdom – David Wingrove (1989)

The Middle Kingdom (Chung Kuo, #1)

‘How many billions lived in the City that filled the great northern plains of Europe? The two men crab-scuttling across the dome that roofed the city neither knew nor cared. They thought only of the assassination that was their task.

Chung Kuo. For three thousand years the world-encompassing Empire of the Han had endured. War and famine long banished, the Council of Seven ruled with absolute authority. Their boast: that the Great Wheel of Change itself had ceased to turn.

Yet at that moment of supreme strength and confidence, Chung Kuo was suddenly vulnerable. A challenge had arisen from men who dreamed of Change – although Change would mean war and a return to all the old half-forgotten savageries of the past.’

Blurb from the 1990 NEL paperback edition.

In the 22nd Century, China has control of the Earth and has turned its continents into seven enclosed cities, each ruled by a Tang, one of The Seven; the rulers of Chung Kuo, the Middle Kingdom.
Each city consists of many levels, socially and physically distinct and each citizen’s behaviour determines whether they rise or fall from their level.
The Seven control everything and impose Edicts against technological progress, seeking to keep the peace by maintaining a social status quo by halting the great wheel of change.
In this generation, however, there appear several individuals whose effect on society, for good or ill, will herald change.
Chinese are known as Han, and compose the majority of the ruling classes. Europeans or ‘Hung mao’, have been assimilated into Chinese culture to a large degree but there is a faction of Dispersionists who wish to build starships to colonise other stars, creating a society outside of the Tang’s control.
Major DeVore, originally a high-placed officer in the Tang’s forces, is part of the Dispersionists’ terrorist wing and organises the assassination of a Minister, which sets in motion a chain of political events; events which DeVore strategically controls and exploits for his own ends like a round of his favourite game, Wei-Chi.
This is the first volume of a very under-rated (although possibly ultimately flawed) epic. From Nineteen Eighty-Nine, it was ‘The Wire’ of its age, with its multi-character viewpoint covering all sectors of society from the wretched cannibal society of The Clay (the lightless bottom level) to the Tang himself.
Over the preceding century the Han have rewritten Earth history to suggest that Chung Kuo has always been the dominant civilisation and a ministry exists to ensure that any other historical alternative theory or account is treated as treason.
In this volume we follow several key characters; DeVore, Li Shai Tung, the Tang of City Europe; Li Yuan, the Tang’s son; Kim Ward, a scientific prodigy refugee from The Clay; Ben Shepherd; a cloned advisor to the Tang administration; Karr and Chen, trained fighters from the lower levels who now work for the Tang’s security forces.
It is certainly far more than an SF blockbuster thriller. The complex political manoeuvring and the interweaving individual storylines are handled very well, and the writing occasionally approaches the profound.
On its first publication there were complaints in the journal of the British Science Fiction Association about its sexual elements and one section in particular of extreme sexual violence, although one has to say that the section needs to be looked at in context. Is this merely an apt demonstration of DeVore’s methods of controlling people and the depths of his depravity?

The original series which ran to eight large volumes was marred by the publisher’s insistence on ending the series with volume eight, when the original plan was nine books. The original ending was therefore, somewhat unsatisfactory. Wingrove has recently revised and expanded the entire series which is being released in twenty shorter volumes, the first volume of which is ‘Son of Heaven’ (2011).


The Very Slow Time Machine – Ian Watson (1979)

The Very Slow Time Machine

‘The Very Slow Time Machine arrives on Earth in 1985. Its sole inhabitant is old and mad. Soon it becomes apparent that for him, time is going slowly backward. With every day, he is getting younger and saner. The world, and its whole concept of time, science and philosophy, must wait for him to speak. But while the world waits, it changes…’

Blurb from the 1981 Granada paperback edition

There aren’t many authors who master the art of short story writing, but Watson is definitely in there with the greats. I remember reading a couple of these stories in their original publications and it is to Watson’s credit that the memory of the essence of the tales still remains. Watson is also one of the most inventive and creative writers around and a more diverse collection of ideas and subject matter from one author will be a tough order.
He is also particularly prolific, and has several collections of short stories available. They are all highly recommended.
Ian Watson exhibits a prolificacy and breadth and depth in theme, subject and setting in his short stories, something unusual in SF writers since their short forms on the whole tend to fall within certain parameters.
Furthermore, each story is exquisitely constructed, its brevity belying the wealth of concepts employed.
The title piece for instance examines not only issues of causality and paradox, but also looks at religion’s relationship with the media.
The stories here are a selection from the Nineteen Seventies, covering a period of about five years.

The Very Slow Time Machine (Anticipations – Christopher Priest (Ed) 1978)
Thy Blood Like Milk (New Worlds Quarterly 1973)
Sitting on a Starwood Stool (Science Fiction Monthly 1974)
Agoraphobia AD 2000 (Andromeda 2 – Peter Weston (Ed) 1977)
Programmed Love Story (Transatlantic Review 1974)
The Girl Who Was Art (Ambit 1976)
Our Loves So Truly Meridional (Science Fiction Monthly 1974)
Immune Dreams (Pulsar 1 – George Hay (Ed) 1978)
My Soul Swims in a Goldfish Bowl (Magazine of F&SF 1978)
The Roentgen Refugees (New Writings in SF #30 – Bulmer (Ed) 1978)
A Time Span to Conjure With (Andromeda 3 – Peter Weston (Ed) 1978)
On Cooking The First Hero in Spring (Science Fiction Monthly 1975)
Event Horizon (Faster Than Light; an original anthology about interstellar travel – Jack Dann and George Zebrowski (Eds) 1976)

The Very Slow Time Machine

A beautifully crafted piece where the themes are paradox and causality. A capsule appears from nowhere in 1985 containing a mad and incoherent old man whose life appears to be running backwards. The capsule appears to have been sent back in time from the near future and is impregnable, but the highly efficient recycling system inside the allows its occupant to sustain himself. As he grows younger and saner he begins to deliver a message.
Over the years the time-traveller begins to assume a Messianic status with the general public.
Ironically it would appear that the media storm around the capsule and its passenger has ensured that we build such a ship and send it back in time and has also ensured that that the occupant – who has grown up somewhere outside the capsule knowing of his destiny – will be compelled to come to the launch site, believing that he is destined to be God.

Thy Blood Like Milk

An ecological tale in which gangs roam the highways searching for sunspots; moments when the sun breaks through a permanent cloud layer caused by pollution and global warming. One of the leaders of the gang, who has revived the Aztec cult of the sun god, is being punished for a death he caused on the road . Having his blood milked for hospital use is paying his penance. The story however focuses on his relationship with his nurse who happens to be the girlfriend of the man he killed.

Sitting on a Starwood Stool

Watson is adept in packing several extraordinary concepts into a deceptively short story. Every 1.23 years aliens appear at a certain point in space to trade a few small cuts of the rare Starwood for valuable products from Earth; a Botticelli or even a group of humans.
Starwood is the product of trees grown on an asteroid with an eccentric orbit about its sun, and absorbs the energies of trees. When turned into something such as a stool, it will leak its stored star energy into whomever it comes into contact with, rejuvenating or curing the subject.
A cancer victim hatches a plot to steal the stool form a Yakuza boss, but things do not go according to plan.

Agoraphobia AD 2000

Watson again demonstrates his fascination with Japanese culture in this surreal tale in which an astronaut is required to enter a virtual environment in order to commit hari kiri.

Programmed Love Story

A highly stylised Japanese tale of a businessman who is requested to abandon his bride as she is rather too complaint to be a corporate wife. When she becomes a hostess at the Queen Bee they meet again, but in her work she has been endowed with the persona of an aggressive and ruthless Imperial Consort, and it is this with which he falls in love,
Beautifully written and beautifully structured.

The Girl Who Was Art

A story which examines Art and Japanese culture in which a young girl undergoes muscle training in order to reproduce three-dimensionally the work of a twentieth century photographer in tableaux forms. But Art, it appears, is fickle and transient.

Our Loves So Truly Meridional

The world becomes divided into segments along the meridians by immense glass-like forcefield walls. Two people in separate segments attempt to reach the poles to find out what happens at the nexus of the barriers. It’s in the detail where Watson excels, envisioning societies where a globe of the world has been reduced to a single bowlike segment with a steel string connecting the poles.

Immune Dreams

A man who may or may not be suffering from cancer believes that dreams are the body’s way of correcting errant DNA, He elects to become part of an experiment in which the part of the brain which suppresses volitional control during sleep is turned off.

My Soul Swims in a Goldfish Bowl

A rather weak tale in which a man is convinced by his wife that the amoebic creature he has coughed up is his soul, and keeps it alive in a goldfish bowl

The Roentgen Refugees

Following the unexpected supernova of Sirius, the world is blasted by the resultant flux of Gamma radiation and only a fraction of the world’s population are saved, mainly in the Western World. Set in South Africa (and written during the time of apartheid) it’s a philosophical piece about third world issues, faith and racism on various levels. Like most of Watson’s short fiction it is brief, yet complex.

A Time Span to Conjure With

A scheduled inspection of a young colony world finds the colonists childless and oddly philosophical. It appears that an indigenous species (spoken of as ‘fairies’ due to their apparent transparency and elusiveness) exist in Time in a different sense to ourselves.
The aliens appear to be very alien, made more so by the fact that Watson keeps them at arm’s length. We see them briefly on the page, but realise through the narrative that they are always around.

On Cooking The First Hero in Spring

Three human anthropologists examine an alien tribe who show little signs of intelligence and seemingly have only one word in their vocabulary, although a Buddhist member of the team looks at them from a different perspective.
Initially it is thought that the creatures had built an aisle of statuary, depicting themselves or their ancestors, but it transpires that every ‘dawn’ one of their number is chosen to be baked alive in a shell of clay, and then put in position among the statues forming a strange highway to nowhere.

Event Horizon

Maybe the least accessible of the stories, this features a black hole which may or may not have a mind trapped with it, and some investigators, who achieve telepathic union by the use of drugs and tantric sex. It’s very much a tale of its time and seems – unlike the other pieces – oddly dated.


Jagged Orbit – John Brunner (1969)

The Jagged Orbit

While reading this, it struck me, since Brunner seems particularly Dick-influenced – how PKD’s characters seem to be trapped in their roles. I suspect if you pick up any Dick novel at random you would find more than one character yearning to break away from a job, or a spouse or both and yet seems doomed to remain. PKD’s characters are defined by their status and their place in society, and to a certain extent, so are Brunner’s.
Brunner’s work is more obviously satirical, extrapolating US society into a caricatured future of Mental Health gurus, psychic mediums, Watergate-style media reporters, race-riots, politics, corruption, big business and Artificial Intelligence.
It was a time of crisis when Brunner was writing this. America had been involved for some time in the Korean war, civil rights groups were rising and fighting for equality for all the usual causes – all of them just, and so it is not surprising that that this novel is laced with a healthy dose of cynicism for the concepts of equality, fair play and clean politics, on both sides of the divide.
The novel is divided into a hundred chapters, some of which are merely short quotes or excerpts from media reports. It’s therefore a fast-paced, punchy, sometimes aggressive narrative which centres around a TV reporter, Matthew, whose exposees are transmitted once a week and who is currently investigating the Gosschalks, a multinational family who manufacture arms, amongst other things, and who may or may not be suffering from internal family tensions.
When Matthew visits the Mental Health Institute where his wife has been committed – and receiving some somewhat dubious treatment – he is drawn into slowly uncovering an international conspiracy where racial unrest is being actively encouraged, which could lead to world crises and the fall of civilisation.
Paradoxically enough, it’s actually quite funny. One of Brunner’s best.


The Altar on Asconel – John Brunner (1965)

altar

‘Exiles of an extra-galactic god

BEACHHEAD FROM ANOTHER GALAXY

Whether or not he had wanted to turn back at the last minute, he couldn’t have – the wave of dirty, hungry people carried him helplessly along in their fervor to reach the temple. Like dope addicts, he told himself, they don’t even care about themselves, only about the thing that is inside the temple!

He remembered the day ten years ago when his older brother had been made a Warden of Asconel, a prosperous and happy planet, and he and his other brothers had left in the interests of their people. Now they had returned to a world where a fanatical cult had usurped the Warden’s chair, and men and women were gladly offering themselves up as human sacrifices to Belizuek – whoever or whatever that being from beyond the galaxy was…

I’ll find out, he told himself grimly, when I enter these doors…’

Blurb from the 1965 M-123 Ace Double paperback edition.

Part of Brunner’s ‘Interstellar Empire’ series, As a backdrop to this novel; Humanity spread out into space and discovered many abandoned starships. Using these, a Galactic Empire was established which has now collapsed, leaving the galaxy in a state comparable to Asimov’s Galactic Empire in ‘Foundation and Empire’ where the collapsing Empire is too weak to sustain itself but remains a formidable force.
Asconel was a progressive world outside of the dominion of the failing Empire (with however a hereditary warden it appears). Hodat inherited the wardenship and his three brothers decided to leave the planet to avoid being used as figureheads in any opposition to his stewardship. The youngest brother, Sartrak, has dedicated himself to study in a pacifist brotherhood.
Sartrak’s hot-headed brother Vix arrives to tell him that Hoday has been murdered and that his position as warden of Asconel has been usurped by one Bucyon and his telepathic partner, Lydis. They have brought a new religion to Asconel, one that seems unfeasibly popular and which features voluntary human sacrifice.
Sartrak and his brothers along with Eunora, a young telepath, return to Asconel, determined to rid the world of the evil that has mentally enslaved its people.
It’s a very enjoyable read. The background, however, is far more interesting than the novel itself. The rump of the Empire, whom we encounter en-route are an aggressive paranoid lot.


The Sword of Aldones – Marion Zimmer Bradley (1962)

The Sword of Aldones (Darkover, #20)

‘All lines of cosmic force met in their hands…

Lew Alton was returning to Darkover – returning at the command of men who had once been all too glad to see him leave. For Lew, a Darkovan on his father’s side, and a Terran on his mother’s, had always walked between two worlds, accused by each of belonging to the other, and trusted by neither. Yet Lew alone had the power to understand both worlds and to save them from each other’s unknown forces. That was the reason he had returned at last – armed with the legendary sword of the Sharra matrix, whose destiny was to cross forces with the equally mystic Sword of Aldones in one mighty battle that would decide Darkover’s fate . . .’

Blurb from the 1962 F-153 Ace Doubles Edition

In this ‘Darkover’ novel, Lew Alton – half-Terran, half-Darkovan – has returned from exile to take his place in the Cormyn, which is a kind of House of Lords of the Darkovan folk. He has brought with him a Darkovan relic, The Sword of Sharra. The sword contains a ‘matrix’ which had previously unleashed a power onto the planet, and Lew hopes to use the matrix to now shut the power down. All well and good so far.
Sadly, the narrative is initially bogged down by both a surfeit of largely unnecessary characters and some serious infodumping regarding Lew’s past actions with the Sharra crowd.
Essentially, Bradley has attempted to cover all manner of plot twists and bits of action involving a cast of thousands into an Ace Double ration of pages, and it all ends up as a bit of a mess.
There’s a recurring theme of duality, beginning with Lew meeting a double of Linnell, one of his relations and then mistaking his cousin for his long-unseen younger brother whom he has not seen for several years.
Lew has lost one of his hands by the way, which one suspected may have led to some plot or character development, but ends up making more or less no difference to anything. He also acquires a daughter of which he had no previous knowledge.
An evil relative steals the sword and becomes a threat to the entire planet. It’s up to Lew to find someone who can bond with him telepathically and steal another artefact, the Sword of Andones, in order to save the world.
However, the story gets annoyingly tangled in the actions of far too many people culminating in a scene where Alton, having been attacked, wakes up in a Terran official’s office. Most of the other characters wander in and out, explaining themselves. Lew’s mortal enemy declares himself no longer a mortal enemy but a best friend for reasons that don’t make a lot of sense.
It would appear that Bradley rewrote this to far better effect later under the title ‘Sharra’s Exile’ in 1981.
It’s interesting stylistically as it falls into the Romantic subgenre of the Science Fantasists. To all intents and purposes, this is a fantasy novel, complete with a feudal society, swords with fantastic powers, demon goddesses and arcane laws and rituals. There are, however, no supernatural elements, as everything is explainable (within the internal logic of the book) scientifically.