Here's a blast from the past. I was a child when I came into possession of Starwolf. Where I picked up my copy of this book I don't know but I still remember the cover vividly. Those quaint, homeworld style space fighters blasting across the background. An exploding space base, a horde of angry locals and at the very front the space suited hero, blaster firing. I remember thinking it weird that the hero was wearing a helmet. What did he look like underneath? Why did he have such strong legs? I didn't identify with him as you might expect. He was too strange, too much a man and I just a small boy. I did want his gun though. And of course in the background a bunch of angry natives wearing sticks, a classic pulp cover.
But enough of the thought processes of youth. I'm talking about Starwolf, the trilogy by Edmond Hamilton. Hamilton was a classic sci-fi writer whose work spanned well on thirty years. He was also a writer for DC. His work is archetypal pulp in the style of action-adventure. Starwolf is a self-contained trilogy of stories from his later years which impressed upon a fertile young mind such as mine. There's several ideas I find interesting even coming back now. (Spoilers for a 40 year old book below)

If you want a longer synopsis there's wikipedia. For my purposes here's the brief. The Weapon from Beyond sees Morgan Chane escape after a raid gone bad to join with a band of mercenaries who go on to destroy a vast alien weapon. The Closed Worlds joins Morgan and the mercenaries as they hunt down a lost scientific expedition on a forbidden world haunted by danger. World of the Starwolves sees Morgan return to his raider brothers and set out on the greatest heist ever all in order to rescue the mercenaries, now his friends.

Each of the Starwolf stories had a primary location where most of the action takes place. This location, usually a world of remarkable qualities and varying terrain left a strong impression. Their natives paint across the imagination in bold bright strokes. The people of the black markets and their calm, moon faces. The long limbed creatures praying and sipping hookah. The burning desert which the mercenaries sweat across as Chane crosses with ease. The Closed Worlds had Arkuu, a deadly world filled with the dangers of a fallen civilization. Hamilton had a knack for drawing these places just enough to fill in the blanks.

One of the most interesting ideas was The Dream Machine, the goal of the second book, the Closed Worlds. It is an ancient machine built by a people who abandoned it and forbade access to the planet where it remaind. Why? The Machine has the simple ability to disembody a person. You become an invisible spirit essentially, able to go anywhere and see anything but never interact. It might seem like an old idea now, 50 years later but the way Hamilton presents it makes it seem revolutionary. Moreso than just the machine is the reaction of its creators. Like Frankenstein they abhor their creation and flee from it, when the time comes they act to destroy it. The Machine is the apex of a civilisation that completely recoiled from their own heights. Food for thought, and dreams.

Even years later Morgan and his mercenary mates have a stilted feel to their characters. They seem like deep reservoirs of emotion of which we only see the stoic exteriors. They have deep bonds of brotherhood formed from their shared experiences. They all express a rugged, independent hero stereotype that makes it feel very military. They're the type of people who you salute in the street, veterans of war and hardship.I'm not sure if Hamilton was in the military or if his characters are merely an expression of an archetype common to 60s literature. It's something that's interesting to look at from the outside though and ever so slightly mystifying.

These are just some of the ideas contained within Starwolf. I would not rate it as the best fiction ever produced. It isn't sci-fi in the vein of 2312, more the space opera that birthed Star Wars. However it's an enjoyable read even now and filled with food for thought.

No comments

Add Comment

Enclosing asterisks marks text as bold (*word*), underscore are made via _word_.
Standard emoticons like :-) and ;-) are converted to images.
E-Mail addresses will not be displayed and will only be used for E-Mail notifications.
BBCode format allowed