Imagine if you will, a boy that kept a box of his most favorite things under his bed. It could include all kinds of things: a huge rhinoceros beetle and a perfect lunar moth, wheat pennies and buffalo nickles, a Skylab commemorative stamp, a few worn out copies of some really old issues of Justice League America, the worn down dice from his first role-playing game….
Now imagine a middle aged man that really loves science fiction more than anything, and he has a box in his head that contains all of his favorite science fictional things: the insane and god-like beings from Philip José Farmer’s The Maker of Universes, the Duncan Idaho ghola from Frank Herbert’s Dune stories, the freaky starships from Brian Aldiss’s Nonstop, TSR’s Metamorphosis Alpha, and Level 9’s Snowball, the bizarre world of William Sleator’s House of Stairs, the incredible arc of development of a character like Orson Scott Card’s Ender Wiggin, every single frame and story beat of Tron, every maze puzzle in every text adventure ever made, and the utterly transcendent romance of C. L. Moore’s “The Bright Illusion”.
That’s what this story is: all of that mind-spinningly awesome stuff pulled from its forgotten cache, dusted off… and then crammed into one tiny novella that deliver’s more story than most people’s novels.
Also: it’s got lizard men. Scads of lizard men! Just like the AAnn from Alan Dean Foster’s Humanx novels, the Dracs from the film Enemy Mine, and the strangely iconic Ly Mantok from SPI’s monstrously unplayable space game Freedom in the Galaxy. Whose heart does not leap at the thought of sprawling space empires positively teeming with lizard men?! It’s a staple of space opera that definitely needs a shot in the arm. (Seriously, where’d they go…?!)
But this story isn’t the over the top adventure story that you’d read about in those thrilling issues of Planet Stories with the garish pulp covers. This is a straight ahead science fiction tale of the sort that you’d read in those slightly more serious magazines with the space ships and aliens on the covers. The sort of stories that most people that thought they liked science fiction and that thought they wanted to read science fiction stories were looking for when they would drop by the newsstand for a big time science fiction magazine… only to find out in recent decades that the science fiction that they thought would be obvious and right and good and true somehow ceased to exist a few decades ago even though the magazines continued on without it, like some ring-enthralled hobbit that could not die but which existed forever in some shadowy fade state.
This is the real deal. This is the stuff you thought no one would ever write again. This is the original recipe edition of the proverbial Nutty Nuggets in all its glory.
And that’s not an exaggeration. If you had handed me this story and told me that Andre Norton wrote it decades ago, I would have believed you.
Check it out!