Wednesday, December 12, 2012
Halcyon Drift by Brian M. Stableford
The series is the story of star pilot Grainger, who is forced by circumstances, after his own ship is destroyed in a disastrous crash, to accept a job flying a new ship, the Hooded Swan, that is a fusion of human and alien technologies. She is faster and more manoeuvrable than any previous design, but despite the opportunity offered, Grainger resents the fact he is employed simply as a pilot but denied the position of Captain, and cannot resign at any time during his two-year contract without dire financial penalties that he regards as thoroughly unjust. In fact Grainger regards his terms of employment as making him little more than a slave, or at least an indentured servant. However, left little alternative by his financial situation, Grainger takes the job, and carries out a variety of assignments for his new masters, accompanied by the unwelcome alien symbiote sharing his brain.
My first exposure to Stableford's writing was his short story "An Offer of Oblivion" that appeared in Amazing Science Fiction. It is part of a loosely connected series that is followed by the very good "Captain Fagan Died Alone" from "The DAW Science Fiction Reader". They are worth looking up. After I enjoyed his short story I went in search of his novels. In the 70s, i was limited to what was in the library and new books on the newstands in our small town. That is when i first found the last two books of this series ("The Hooded Swan"). The final two books were some of my favorites from that era.
Now I am going back and reading the series from the beginning. I found this first story a disappointment. Stableford violates one of the rules of writing. He spends much of the early part telling us about events instead of showing them to us. The elements of a good novel are all there but the execution undercuts the effectiveness of the story. Based on my memories of the later books, I think this is just a temporary problem that the author corrects with future books. I will find out when I read book two ("Rhapsody in Black").