Space Mercenaries – A Bertram Chandler (1965)
COSMIC BLOCKADE RUNNER
Her ex-Imperial Highness of Outer Space had developed a conscience. With a well-armed space cruiser on her hands, she didn’t want to sell it to just anyone – that is anyone under Empire Control. So the former Empress and her ex-space captain husband, became mercenaries for GLASS – The Galactic League for the Abolition of Suppression and Slavery.
Their first assignment was blockade running, to bring antibiotics to the plague-ridden humans on Antrim, besieged by the Halicheki bird-people and ignored by the Empire. Only, this would be a ticklish business for they could not fire one shot at the Halicheki without being legally termed pirates. And although the ex-Empress and her husband were open-minded enough to try all sorts of devious tricks, the prospect of being hanged for piracy by the Empress’s successor did not appeal to either of their natures…’
Blurb from the M-133 1965 Ace Double paperback edition
This is Chandler’s second ‘Empress Irene’ novel (following from the fabulously titled ‘Empress of Outer Space’). This finds Irene, having abdicated her position as an Empress of a Human interstellar Empire, at a bit of a loose end, with an Imperial light cruiser at her disposal, and her able husband, John Trafford.
The couple are approached by GLASS to become blockade runners and ferry a cargo of antibiotics to Antrim, a culturally Irish planet which is suffering the ravages of a pandemic disease outbreak.
This planet however, lies within the territory of a hostile avian species, The Halicheki. Irene and her faithful crew need to get past the ships of the evil matriarchal bird people, land, deliver their cargo and escape from Halicheki space. There are chases, space battles, derring do, unexpected allies and a bit of political shenanigans.
As always, Chandler’s aliens are somewhat simplistic and more akin to something one would find in a Disney movie. On the whole though, it’s a lighthearted romp that breaks no boundaries and is standard fare from Chandler, whose entire style was to translate seafaring adventures into fast paced space opera.