Sunday, September 25, 2011

Book Review: 'The Avengers of Carrig' by John Brunner

3 / 5 Stars

During the 60s and 70s John Brunner took a large number of his previously published short stories and novelettes and expanded them into novel-length pieces for the growing paperback and hardbound markets. DAW Books readily took these re-worked novels and added them to its own catalogue.

‘The Avengers of Carrig’ (DAW Book No. 369, January 1980, 157 pp.) was a 1969 expansion of a 1962 short story titled ‘Secret Agent of Terra’. The cover illustration is by Gino D’ Achille.

The story takes place on planet ‘Fourteen’, one of a number of earth-like worlds settled centuries ago by refugees of a planetary cataclysm. The refugees established a quasi-medieval civilization centered on the major city of Carrig. The Federation maintains a policy akin to the Prime Directive towards worlds like Fourteen, content to monitor events on-planet through covert agents who embrace the mannerisms and lifestyles of their adopted homes.

The civilization of Fourteen is ruled by kings, who assume power after proving victorious in ritual combat with a parradile, one of the race of intelligent pterodactyls native to the planet. When a stranger named Belfeour assumes the kingship in maneuver that stuns and amazes the citizenry of Carrig, the Federation’s agents realize that something untoward has taken place. 

The Federation dispatches a team of investigators to Fourteen; they include a grizzled veteran named Lagenschmidt, and a young woman named Maddalena. Through misfortune Maddalena winds up very much on her own, forced to deal with the natives on their own terms. Even as Carrig sinks under the rule of a tyrant, Maddalena struggles to enlist the citizenry to rebellion. But without weapons, modern technology, and communication with the Federation, the success of her mission is by no means a sure thing…..

‘Avengers’ is a straightforward sci-fi adventure tale, something that would have been at home in any issue of Analog in the early 1960s. It certainly has a more commercial flavor to it than Brunner’s works issued in the late 60s and early 70s, and this is not a bad thing. Readers looking for a cleanly written, fast-moving story with some inventiveness in terms of setting may want to keep an eye out for this novel.

1 comment:

MPorcius said...

I read John Brunner's "A Maze of Stars" (1991) earlier this month and I thought it was incredibly boring. Brunner has many fans, though; on Amazon there are 11 reviews for "A Maze of Stars," and the only hostile one is mine.

Several times I have considered reading "Stand on Zanzibar," Brunner's most famous work, but it sounds like a combination of themes I have been sick of for years: evil corporations; fears of overpopulation; and carping about Western consumerism; so I have never taken the plunge.

I have a feeling Brunner is not for me.