Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Appendix N: Leigh Brackett's "The Ginger Star"

One thing I've noticed since my previous post about Leigh Brackett, is the more I read her, the more I like her. That is true of the first book I read by her in the Planet Stories line. Of the two stories in that book, I enjoyed the first, "The Secret of Sinharat", but I liked the second, "People of the Talisman", more.

The Ginger Star is another John Eric Stark story. Originally published in 1974, The Ginger Star would be Brackett's return to the character of Stark after a nearly twenty years. As I mentioned in my review of The Secret of Sinharat, that book, published in 1964 was a re-write of two earlier short stories, both of which were published in the late 40's and early 50's. In the three previous Stark stories, Brackett had adapted the typical 40's Space Opera milieu which assumed that there was indigenous life in our solar system other then our own. Many authors other then Brackett had assumed as much about Mars, Mercury and Venus. With Brackett's return to Stark, she abandoned that curio of the golden age and created a new planet with Skaith.

It is because of Skaith that The Ginger Star so easily finds its place on Gygax's Appendix N. It is stuffed full of action and exotic locals. Several times while reading it, I kept finding myself tempted to stop and start building a campaign world around Skaith. So many things in this novel fired my imagination - The Corn King, the Farers, the Wandsmen. I won't ruin it for you by explaining what these things are, just please trust me. If you haven't ever experienced this novel, pick up a copy from Paizo and do so.

There are some weaknesses in this novel. Brackett does not take the time to develop here characters in this story. Most seem card board cut outs meant to stand in just long enough to push forward her plot. That criticism aside, she does deliver a fast paced story in less then 200 pages and while her secondary characters are not well developed, her main character is engaging. I think of Stark as a blending of Edgar Rice Burrough's Tarzan (and in some respects, John Carter) and Robert E. Howard's Conan.

I enjoy the Planet Stories selections that I've purchased from Paizo. I have not yet had the opportunity to read all of them - I have two more Henry Kuttner volumes to read, a collection of earlier stories written by contemporary authors titled Before they Were Giants and a double feature of Michael Moorcock and Joe Lansdale. Each book has attractive well done cover art, plus the covers are pre-creased (something I really appreciate). The paper used is of good stock that will not fade easily. Paizo has also sought out some great talent to write their introductions. I have one very glaring criticism: TYPOS! The Ginger Star featured the most annoying typo yet, as the copy editors had the characters stabling their "breasts" instead of their "beasts".

To steal a line from one of my favorite NFL pre-game shows: COME ON MAN!

Such glaring typos detract from an otherwise great product and I would love to see future products missing such errors.

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