Saturday, April 21, 2012

Book Review: 'Icerigger' by Alan Dean Foster


3 / 5 Stars

‘Icerigger’ (313 pp.) was published by Ballantine / Del Rey in March 1974; the striking cover is by Tim White. Succeeding volumes in the ‘Icerigger’ trilogy are ‘Mission to Moulokin’ (1981) and ‘The Deluge Drivers’ (1987).

Ethan Fortune is a salesman earning a comfortable living among the civilized worlds of the galaxy. While traveling aboard the liner Antares, a series of encounters with would-be kidnappers results in Fortune, and other passengers, crash-landed on the surface of the nearby planet Tran-ky-ky.

Tran-ky-ky is an ice world, its surface covered by land masses and frozen seas; a ‘warm’ day is one in which the temperature hovers around 32 degrees Farenheit. Not surprisingly, the little band of Antares passengers are in severe straits. Fortunately their crash attracts the attention of the planet’s humanoid inhabitants, a race of unique cat-people known as the ‘tran’.

The tran are featured in Wayne Douglas Barlowe’s 1979 paperback ‘Barlowe’s Guide to Extraterrestrials’:

 



Ethan Fortune, and a roustabout named Skua September, soon find themselves the de facto leaders of the stranded party of Terrans. The hospitable tran ensconce the Terrans in their citadel within the city of Wannome, and Fortune and September get to work asking their hosts for directions to the nearest offworld outpost. But with the medieval level of technology on Tran-ky-ky, getting from Wannome to the Federation outpost at Brass Monkey, a journey of several hundred miles, is by no means an easy task.

And things aren’t helped by the fact that The Horde, a migratory army of barbarian tran, will soon be descending on the city of Wannome. And if Ethan and Skua can’t help the tran defend their city, their chance to get off-world will be forever lost…..

‘Icerigger’ is a very capable sf adventure novel with ‘old school’ flavor. The icy world of Tran-ky-ky, and its cold-adapted feline race, are interesting creations, and Foster imbues his human and tran characters with varied personalities. Ethan Fortune and Skua September regularly find their wits and improvisational skills taxed by desperate combats and narrow escapes.

‘Icerigger’ isn’t perfect; Foster tends to get more than a little stilted and even cutesy with his dialogue, and some parts of the narrative rely on contrivances to get our heroes out of a jam.

But to be fair, ‘Icerigger’ doesn’t try to be a profound Speculative Fiction Novel as was often the case for some sf works of the mid-70s. Rather, this book is recommended for readers who want to sit down with an engaging, fast-paced novel that aims primarily to entertain.

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