The decision to buy this book was based solely on the cover, which depicts an evil giant pterodactyl blasted out of the sky by a heroic little spaceship. This has to be good, I said to myself, and made a bid of a staggering 20 kr on Tradera (the Swedish eBay). And it was a good read, certainly. Although the pterodactyl wasn’t the bad guy after all – the spaceship was. But more on that later.
I like buying books in that happenstance mode, as you run the risk of either finding a nugget or to hit stone. Albeit the latter is more common, this doesn’t hurt that much as second hand SF books generally are cheaper than lottery tickets, and you can always keep them for their corny covers.
Let’s return to the book. The Avengers of Carrig is the first in the Zarathustra Refugee Planets trilogy all written by John Brunner in the 1960s. A problem for SF writers is how to make the world/planet/universe they describe convincing to the readers. Although there are some talented writers that can swing a story without even a tangential reference to the realms of reality, most writers need to frame their story in some setting that make sense to us. In his series, Brunner make use of the good old after-the-apocalypse card, but with a twist. Instead of describing what happens on a post-apocalyptic world where humanity is crawling out of some hidden cave/silo/cryo-sleep, he creates a whole set of new worlds colonized by the survivors from a planet wiped out by a nova. Each of the worlds and their settling communities then starts on independent social and cultural trajectories and with time develop different levels of complexity ranging from barbary to advanced societies.
But they are not alone. From space these worlds are monitored by the Corps Galactica, an ever watchful eye whose presence can not be exposed to the inhabitants.
In The Avengers of Carrig, the settling community on Planet 14 (as the Corps Galactica calls it) has transformed into a sort of feudal medieval society. The ruler is appointed from different clans by an annual king hunt, in which young and daring clan members take off into the air currents on gliders to hunt and kill one of the giant pterodactyl-like avians. But one year, a new contestant makes claim of an old prerogative to force his way into the king hunt. Reluctantly, the rulers accept him to join, although they are certain the man – named Belfeor – will fail. But Belfeor is smart ass, and a visitor from space, who instead of the gliders gears up his little spaceship and kills the king, and thereby gets the throne. The planet is transformed into a slave planet, where Befeor and his men use the natives to extract precious radoactive ore which shipped off to civilized worlds.
The only hope for salvation comes from three persons: young Saikmar, a noble from one of the original clans forced into exile; Maddalena, a Corps Galactica maiden with a lot of things to prove; and Gus Langenschmidt, a veteran major from the corps. And, of course, a king bird.
I recommend this book as a light read for those with a penchant for fantasy-like stories where the good guys are good, and the bad guys evil, and where beast and animals meet under a red sun.