Books for Grownups · Reading

“The Ginger Star” Review

“Stark got his final view of Pax from the tender, going out to the spaceport moon, and that was the best view he had had of it.”

So begins The Ginger Star by Leigh Brackett. This was another recommendation by C. J. Cherryh for which I had little background. Another older title, I was interested to dive in and see what it was like.

Cover art is important. This one, while obviously dated, conveys the general dark tone well. Stark is a little over-the-top weird, though; his face doesn’t exactly scream “good guy.”

In brief, this is the story of hero Eric John Stark, a sort of loner/mercenary whose only real “family” connection, Simon Ashton, has disappeared. Ashton had been sent to the backwards, dying planet Skaith as part of the Galactic Union’s attempt to emigrate some of the inhabitants. When he failed to return, Stark takes up the trail. On Skaith, he finds that that this trail goes through the wild, animal-like Farers, the planet’s Wandsmen rulers, and a host of other strange (and, inevitably, dangerous) tribes and peoples, and that he is himself the subject of a recent “Dark Man” prophecy. Whether or not he’s the Dark Man doesn’t really interest Stark though; all he cares about is getting to Ashton. And then getting them back out alive.

After Forerunner, this novel was a relief. While nothing stood out as particularly exceptional (except maybe the super-creepy cover art), it was fairly well written, had lots of action to move the story along, and kept my attention to the end. It also fell into the category of “science fiction that reads like a fantasy,” which is becoming one of my favorite sub-genres. Though clearly sci-fi – complete with space travel – the majority of the book takes place in a backwards land where swordplay, ferocious beasts, and magic still rule. One complaint though: there was really no attempt to work out the interplay between the “science” part and the “magic/prophecy” part; Stark just seems to take for granted that weird and unexplainable stuff happen, even if it is an ice storm conjured up by a bunch of wizards or a prophecy that predicts his arrival on planet. I prefer the details of this to be worked out a bit more: is there science behind the supposed supernatural forces? Or the other way around? Or something else?

Overall, I’ll not pursue the rest of the books from this series, but give this one a solid “OK” with no regrets for having read it.

Violence4Stark’s pretty much fighting from beginning to end, killing in various ways.
Sex/Romantic Themes3.5There is one scene of intimacy. Also, a couple heavily suggestive comments and a pointed threat of rape.
Many of the cultures described are fairly brutal in nature. One involves child sacrifice (only mentioned in passing) and many are obviously violent and barbaric.

NOTE: As always, my content notes are for informational purposes, not judgmental ones. For a full explanation of my Content Notes and the scale, click here

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