Saturday, November 13, 2010


By Jack Williamson

OK, this is so totally a guilty pleasure! I am just a sucker for old-time space opera, the broader the better. Jack Williamson is one of the diamonds in the crown of science fiction, but he took some polishing.

Originally published in 1935 as a serial, and released as a novel in 1947, The Legion of Space tells of young legionnaire John Star’s crusade to prevent monarchists inside the Legion from overthrowing the democratic "Green Hall" government. Star has to defeat the monarchists and their allies the Medusa, a race of predatory beings perpetually searching for new planets.

This stuff is bad, really bad. The hero is called John Star even though his name is John Ulnar, because he changes his name at the end of the story. If you just said, “Huh?” that would be what I said when I read it. John Star has a crew of legionnaires to help him, among them is Giles Habibula, who is supposed to be an interstellar Falstaff. After he’d whined about how “poor mortal me is starved to skin and bones and worn out in the service of the Legion” for about the 325th time in maybe 6 pages I really wanted to pull out my hair.

But I kept on reading, because Williamson knew how to keep up the suspense, the action, and the interest. He had the ability to create a sense of wonder. There is the mysterious AKKA, a process that can destroy anything in line of sight, even a planet. The trek through the black jungle on the lost planet of the Medusa drew me in. The image of the city of black metal on the shore of a dying sea is a bizarre and haunting one.

So if you like your sf cheap & cheerful, this sure fits the bill.
-Dave Hardy


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