Space Vulture (Gary K Wolf and Archbishop John J Myers)

4.5 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
Space Vulture is a modern throwback to the era of sci-fi serials of the 1940s.  The heroes are larger than life, with perfect morality, and the villains are debased and evil just for the sake of being evil.  The largest departure from something actually from this period is that this book has sections that are significantly more violent and gory than anything you could produce at the time.  As a longtime fan of this era of sci-fi, I found this book to be a delightful homage and thoroughly enjoyed it.  There are certainly some major issues stemming from doing anything in this style, largely somewhat one dimensional characters, a primary focus on violent fights, and a plotting designed more to link battles together with interesting backdrops than to create a cohesive, overarching plot. Given its limitations, I think Space Vulture is one of the best things I’ve read in its genre and I would heartily recommend it to anyone who isn’t put off by lack of strong plot or characters.

Greater Detail:
Galactic Marshall Victor Corsair is a two-fisted, straight-shooting lawman from space.  When he encounters the notorious and fiendish space pirate and all around villain known as the Space Vulture, the intrepid has no choice but to do battle to end the Space Vulture’s reign of evil tyranny.

Despite the book’s crude space opera roots, there is some sophistication to this book.  The main plot centers around Victor Corsair and a female love interest’s ongoing battles with Space Vulture, which is fairly straightforward.  There is a secondary plot focused on a criminal who becomes caught up with the female love interest’s two young sons who are attempting to rescue their mother from Space Vulture that is somewhat more nuanced.  The two plots interact fairly well, and I found myself personally more invested in the secondary plot with the two sons and the criminal than I did with the primary battle of good versus evil embodied by Victor Corsair and the Space Vulture.

This definitely isn’t what I would call hard sci-fi.  The setting has a lot of high technology, but the authors make little to no effort to explain how or why anything works or why any political or social systems are the way they are.  Some of the combinations necessary for the story are a little odd, and it’s hard to immediately deduce how such a system could possibly come about (like a galaxy wide famous resort planet where people come to vacation that is also a horrible slave market full of people-eating aliens).  Given the lack of hows or whys, the setting is quite imaginative and vivid.  I kind of like being introduced to giant piles of bizarre aliens and worlds without having to worry too much about the specifics of their functions or evolutionary pressures.

I was a bit saddened to see that the authors hadn’t managed to make the one dimensional heroic protagonist more interesting than the villain, but this phenomenon is so common in the genre that I don’t know if changing it would have been appropriate.  Then again, maybe I am just a sucker for a boastfu,l conceited villain and would always find one of them more interesting than even the deepest and most nuanced hero.  The characters in the subplot with the children and the criminal are a bit more robust, and overall I really didn’t have that many complaints.

Comparisons to Other Authors:
There isn’t much contemporary stuff that has this same feel of grand adventure that I’ve read that has been any good.  I guess the closest I can think of to that feeling of unbounded adventure would be Simon R. Green’s Deathstalker series, starting with Deathstalker.

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