Thursday, April 11, 2013

The Hounds of Skaith by Leigh Brackett (1974)

After reading and loving The Ginger Star, I did the unusual (for me) move of immediately ordering the other two books in the series. While in some ways the second volume, The Hounds of Skaith by Leigh Brackett (1974), didn't quite live up to the first entry, it far surpassed every other book on the face of the planet with the awesomeness of its cover. There is a lot going on there, but it all makes perfect sense after you read the book.

As you may remember from the first volume, Eric John Stark (a human who was raised by the equivalent of wolves in an abandoned mining colony on Mars) travels to the dying planet of Skaith to rescue his foster father, Ashton. He does just that in volume 1, and now must lead his party back to the south of the planet to try and intercept a ship home before the leaders send them all away and destroy the space ports. Among his companions are Stark's lover Gerrith, a prophetess from Skaith; and a pack of scary Northhounds, vicious psychic dogs trained to kill with fear. Stark leads the group through dangers both environmental and Skaithian using his skills of independence, strength, confidence, and empathy. Along the way we are introduced to a whole new host of inhabitants of a planet that has grown diverse as living creatures struggle to reach into the few niches left for survival.

All that is perfectly great, and Brackett is just as good as writing sci-fi based adventure stories as ever, but where volume 2 disappoints is in the lack of involvement with Gerrith, the Skaithian seer who is a well-rounded and important female character in the first volume. It isn't because she doesn't feature in the story, because she is along for the ride almost the entire time, but somehow she is left out of almost all the dialogue and plot points except for a couple nights in bed with Stark and a brief scene at the end of the book. We can be thankful at least that that scene transitions us into the possibility of more Gerrith in volume 3. Let's hope that Brackett doesn't forget about her!

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