Sunday, February 20, 2011

Book Review: 'Under A Calculating Star' by John Morressy

2 / 5 Stars

Kian Jorry is an adventurer and part-time con man who travels the galaxy in search of the next hustle, or the next rumor of riches and treasure. Jorry is handsome, charming, smart, and always one step ahead of the Federation authorities.

Axxal is a member of the Galaxy’s laborer class, a race of humanoids called the Quespodons. Like most Quespodons, Axxal is slow and plodding, a follower rather than a leader, content to let others think of the big picture.

Jorry has chosen Axxal and a handpicked team of the most ruthless and cunning desperados in the Federation to join him in  finding the treasure rumored to lie on the deserted planet Boroq-Thaddoi. Within a Citadel of otherworldly construction, so the legends say, is a storage room filled with riches from all over the Galaxy, riches enough to make each man wealthy beyond measure. But many have tried to find the treasure of Boroq-Thaddoi, and few have returned, and those that did return were empty-handed and their addled brains filled with stories of deadly traps, bloodthirsty monsters, and perils unknown…

‘Under A Calculating Star’ was first published in 1975; this Popular Library paperback was issued in 1978. The cover artist is Paul Alexander.

The first 70 pages of the book are well-written and engrossing, as Jorry and his team of adventurers make their way to Boroq-Thaddoi and endure all manner of dangers in their quest to recover the riches in the Citadel. 

Unfortunately, after those opening 70 pages the plot loses steam, preoccupying itself with a series of encounters between a scheming Jorry and a dim-witted planetary despot. Another plot thread deals with Axxal and his growing awareness that maybe the Quespodons aren't the dumb laborers that everyone thinks they are. The author intended this segment of the novel as a thoughtful exposition on Axxal's voyage of self-discovery and seeing into the true nature of things....I think.

But for a Space Opera, such a loss of momentum is fatal, and in the case of ‘Calculating’ it negates the initial adventures on Boroq-Thaddoi and renders the novel as a whole a boring read. I had to force myself to finish the book. This one is best passed by.

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