The last couple of days I have been immersed in two books that back to back kept me from doing much else then reading them.
Over the last year or so I had read about the upcoming novel Space Vulture by Gary K. Wolf and Archbishop John J. Myers. Gary Wolf is best know for his novels with Roger Rabbit and he was a childhood friend with John Myers who became the Archbishop of New Jersey. Now surely a Catholic and lover of SF such as myself would be intrigued by a SF novel co-written by an Archbishop. Now there have been some prominent Catholics in regards to SF. Saint Thomas More wrote one of the first SF novels Utopia, Monsignor Robert Hugh Benson wrote in the genre, and there have been great Catholic SF authors such as Walter M. Miller, Jr and of course the preeminent Gene Wolfe.
Space Vulture will not go down in the annals of SF as being great, but it is not meant to. This book is a homage to Space Hawk a book loved by John Myers as a kid and one he introduced to his friend Gary Wolf. This book attempts to capture the spirit of the Golden Age of SF and it mostly succeeds at this. Space Vulture is a space opera with a villain who is really bad (not misunderstood) and a hero who is really good with a strict moral code. Along the way the characters have their adventures and fights and it is all mostly predictable while still be a good read. Space Vulture is the equivalent of a Popcorn Movie, you don’t expect much but you still finish the book quite satisfied. At times the dialogue can be a little cheesy and you suspect that they were trying to copy the writing that so often appeared in Planet Stories and other and other SF magazines that specialized in swashbuckling adventure. Now you might wonder how an Archbishop being involved in this might affect the story especially when it comes to religion. Well Space Vulture does not hit you over the head with religion and sticks to moral themes so you get a lot of black and white when it comes to good and evil with some redemption along the way. I thoroughly liked the characters that kept from being stereotypes while at the same time being stereotypes.
I found this to be a quite fun book and I certainly enjoyed it and by the ending it looks like it is setup to have some future sequels to it. The cover design is also pretty good which gives you a sense of the era and making it look like the book is a little old. Though if they were going for the Planet Stories books they forgot to include the “glamorous brunette Spae-Babe” that John C..Wright proved is a necessary part of Science Fiction.
This book has received postive reviews from some interesting quarters. On one side you have Stan Lee and then you have people like Brother Guy Consolmagno, S.J. an Gene Wolfe.
When I first read about The Tripods Attack! (The Young Chesterton Chronicles) the concept fascinated me. Though I really wasn’t expecting
that it would deliver what it would promise by the concept. In a alternate timeline a young Gilbert Keith Chesterton sets out on a adventure that includes a similar young H.G. Wells, Fr. Brown, and a person known as the Doctor. In this Edwardian timeline the world is much different where mechanical difference engines are the prime technology along with steam. So what we have is kind of a steam-punk novel with G.K. Chesterton. Great and fun concept, but could it be done right? Well after two days with a 360 some page novel I whole-heartily say yes! Now I truly love the writings of G.K. Chesterton so I had a bias in wanting to like this novel, but since it was classed as young adult I was quite skeptical at first. This though is no Hardy Boys adventure and I certainly am no longer a young adult. Though I think a young adult audience would enjoy it. Each chapter begins with a short quotation from G.K. Chesterton, but the young Gil is not yet at the height of his philosophical powers. As the characters progress throughout the story we do get treated through to the world of Chesterton prominently thorough Fr. Brown, but also through the young Gil. Conversations between the Fr. Brown, Gil, Herbert Wells, and the Doctor give ample opportunity into exploring our own timeline’s G.K. Chesterton. Though this isn’t a book that hits you over the head with his ideas, but manages to seamlessly weave them into the story so the novel in no ways seems like a lecture.
There is plenty of action and adventure along the ways as they deal with the Tripods and the events that go around them. I found this to be a fully satisfying book. Well written, great characters, and plot with some nice turns. I was happy to read after finishing this novel that this will be a trilogy. To which I can only say hurry up and finish the next instatement John McNichol!