Friday, November 29, 2013

Book Review: Icerigger

    When I was a lad, my father pointed me in the direction of some Alan Dean Foster novels.  I think he told me specifically about the Flinx and Pip books, which oddly I wouldn’t go on to read for two decades or more.  But none the less, I was fascinated by Foster’s Humanx Commonwealth, and I picked up a handful of books and read them over the years.  Among the first I bought were the Icerigger trilogy…which I again, didn’t read.  Until now.  I found the trilogy as ebooks on the cheap, and figured now was a good time.

    Icerigger introduces us to Ethan Fortune, a merchant looking to make a name for himself and get a cushy job back in the core worlds, caught up in a kidnapping attempt that quickly goes from botched to totally screwed.  Soon, he finds himself one of the survivors of a crash, marooned on a hostile ice world, with no expectation of rescue.  Here we meet, among others, the mad Viking of a man, Skua September.  In Edgar Rice Burroughs fashion, Fortune and September embark on a journey of discovery and adventure, involving inhuman natives, swashbuckling, politics, and romance.

    Foster’s Humanx novels are direct descendants of classic space opera, mixing the pulpy fun of Burroughs’s Mars books and C.L. Moore’s Northwest Smith stories, with the huge scale universe building of Asimov’s Foundation and E.E. “Doc” Smith’s Lensmen.  Similar to Larry Niven, A. Bertram Chandler, and others, he crafted a wide, wild universe to play in, creating galaxy spanning civilizations and local potentates.  Though the action of Icerigger is limited to one world (and briefly, it’s orbital space), you are constantly aware that events take place within a larger setting.  Fortune and September are certainly fun characters to follow.  Fortune is a relatable guy.  Smart, competent, and driven, he’s able to roll with a lot of punches, but still reacts in a way the reader can understand.  September is a wild beast of a man; a hard partier, lover, and fighter.  If I have a complaint about this novel, and I don't know that I do, it's that the story reaches a natural climax and conclusion, only to keep going.  It feels like the book is over, but there's a sort of novella tacked on to the end.  Odd, but not necessarily bad.

    Fans of space opera must check out Alan Dean Foster’s Humanx books.  If you’re only familiar with him from his incalculable number of movie novelizations, forget that and read some of his original work.  His universe is more consistent, and more consistently good than the Star Wars or Star Trek universes, while filling a similar niche.

Author: Alan Dean Foster
Publisher: Open Road Publishing
ISBN: (ebook) 9781453274088

-Matthew J. Constantine

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