Thursday, October 8, 2015

Star Viking

Star Viking by Hugh B. Long
This book is space opera brought to a height. Not a new height because all the familiar structures are there; all the huge action of vast space battles, all the intriguing cooperation between people of different races under the banner of benevolent government, all the conflict between the good that humanity and its allies are capable of and the nasty evil that villainous aliens bent on universal domination can unleash.
The theme is simple. A force of space-going warriors under the command of Haldor Olsen is dedicated to protecting the human space colonies, particularly to defeating the evil predators and slavers, the blue-skinned Hrymar.
This is a theme familiar to very many people, and it carries an enduring interest. But the author has not simply jumped onto a proven bandwagon. He presents the basic idea through a new and complex storyline which will appeal to any space opera or hard sci-fi fan. It also holds an engaging romantic interest involving the hero and an elf maiden; there is also a cute child and a strange animal companion to round off the solid worth of the main character.
The background to the plot is old-Earth Norse culture and mythology which will already hold a significance for many readers. The concept provides the values and motivation for much of the action but what is not always made clear is where the author’s vivid imagination takes over from established record.
There is little doubt about the imaginative energy which Long brings to the telling of this story. The ideas almost tumble over one another, but there can be too many ideas and some of the events are presented so quickly that their significance in the storyline is lost, and one or two sections of the plot are puzzling.
In some instances the prose lacks complete fluency and becomes slightly ponderous, but this is balanced by the care which the author takes with detailed descriptions of people and settings. One might wish that the very short epilogue had not been included. Although it may carry the storyline into the future, it does detract from the resolution of the final, almost poetic chapter.
There is no doubt at all that this author can write truly riveting space battle scenes. This is one of the strongest aspects of the book and from the written word emerges a completely visual impression. In this area, Long proves himself to be a master. The starships are described in all necessary detail, the fighting techniques are made thoroughly clear and the actions and responses of the characters involved take the reader fully into the world of conflict between strangely shaped and unbelievably powerful vessels against a cosmic background. There are many such battle scenes throughout the book, very attractive to sci-fi readers in particular and also to action readers in general.
The aliens are given the attention they deserve; the author takes the reader into the mind of the enemy. But they are not treated sympathetically, they are monsters through and through, their evil-doing is almost beyond human belief and yet there is a very slight suggestion that some of them at least might be capable of change, and that could be a matter for the continuation of this massive storyline.
Another source of great interest is the development of the main characters. Although the author’s presentation of individual temperament is not as strong as are his scenes of conflict, there are situations which interest and intrigue throughout the book. The hero accepts that he must allow innocents to be killed when necessary, he will destroy numbers of enemy captives instead of attempting to redeem them, the romantic relationship is affected by a quality not usually found in people who want to become lovers and a father/son connection receives a strange twist.
“Star Viking” falls squarely into the space opera genre. It deals with quite well-developed characters and generally controlled and convincing situations; there is an enormous amount of outstandingly good fight conflict, a highly satisfactory building of a world structure and way of life, and at the end of the tale one is left with a sense of reading time very well spent.
Reviewed by Judith Rook

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