Monday, May 13, 2013

The Reavers of Skaith by Leigh Brackett (1976)

To round out the three-part adventures of Eric John Stark on the planet of Skaith (previously reviewed here), the ever-wonderful Leigh Brackett brings us The Reavers of Skaith (1976). While there is no way that the cover could match the perfect science fiction vision of the second book in the series, the third volume is much more satisfying both in terms of its action and in its use of the main female character, the seer Gerrith, who is once again part of the action and not just along for the ride.

Stark and his compatriots find themselves betrayed at the start of volume three when the freelancing starship captain who had promised to take their delegation back to Pax double-crosses them, ransoms the party, and begins attacking and pillaging the defenseless planet.

As an off-worlder, Stark is seen by many as the cause of their misfortunes, and while he sets off on a cross-planet quest to reach a transmitter and call for inter-galactic help, he and his followers find themselves besieged by all forms of the inventively weird people that inhabit the dying planet of Skaith.

And Skaith, by the way, is really really dying now. Summer was extra short and winter blows into the far north and south with a vengeance. Crops die and workers and Farers surge into the cities and the fertile belt around the equator looking for food and shelter. Looks like Stark's ships and promise of transport to another planet are really going to come in handy for the people of Skaith -- if they can just hold on that long.

Brackett's combination of old-school science fiction adventure and 1970s environmentalism doesn't disappoint. Even though the second volume in this trilogy was a little weak, I'd highly recommend all three to any science fiction fan. And while the connections were a little lighter in the second volume, I stand by my assertion that these novels must have been an inspiration for George R. R. Martin. Winter is coming, indeed.

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