Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Space Viking: Aristocrats in Orbit

H. Beam Piper's Space Viking has the rewards and flaws of classic science fiction. The characters and writing are bold and confident, sure of themselves and the value of their story. The women are even flatter than the men, and mainly stand around ministering to the sick or adoring the men. The politics are pure Campbell-era, with strong men changing history, either allowing the degenerate masses to despoil civilization or rising above and forcing society to stay on the correct track.

The best part of this slim tale is the toying with conventions. The early chapters set up the worlds of raiding planets (the Vikings, with planets named after swords) and raid-ees, either failed civilizations or degenerate ones. The Bad Guy is insanely evil, and he shows up at our hero's wedding and shoots the bride. Revenge time! Hero buys a ship and goes out into the universe searching for bad guy. Then the well-traveled path takes an interesting turn; hero becomes all wrapped up in establishing a safe base with economic trading partners and a well-organized trading system, and he can't really be bothered to stalk around the universe like a two-legged Ahab. The silly political systems are interesting in an archaeological kind of way, but the arc of healing from loss rings true. B-.

1 comment:

kmitcham said...

Old SF is fun also in what changes they get right and what they missed.