The Man Without a Planet by Lin Carter
Raul Linton was in the military and involved in interplanetary wars for 12 years. He is now out with many medals and ribbons, no physical wounds, and disillusioned, weary, and heartsick. His loyalty to the Imperial Government has been shaken but his integrity is intact. He returns to his family’s home planet on the Border and knocks around for a few months. He is seen with many different classes of people from the old family members like himself to the common man to the riff raff, thieves, and rebels. He has an administrative job waiting for him if he wants it for the Imperial Government. When he turns it down (as he had others), “they” are sure he is a malcontent and a revolutionary. Now they just have to find the proof.
When he discovers the Imperial Government authorities on his planet are spying on him and planning on arresting him, Linton is able to escape to a nearby planet of political refugees. They are governed by the deposed Kahani from Valadon. She was supposed to take over a ruler on Valadon when her husband died, but the Border Imperial Government had twisted around inheritance and given to rule to her weak brother-in-law. She is now trying to raise an army to go and reclaim Valadon. She asks Linton to take over as the head of her army.
Linton hesitates, deciding what is his best path. He agrees with her plight, but doesn’t want to go up against people who belong to the Imperium like he does. Now he has to decide whether to accept the position or to let her take on another, less trustworthy ally.
Whoo hoo! The Man Without a Planet is pure 1960’s space opera. This novella has the same feel and qualities as the original Star Trek episodes from the same time period. It even has many of the same anachronisms. Can’t you picture the original Captain James T. Kirk in a sword fight? Yet they had phasers, too? The same thing here. Raul Linton is drawn in by a beautiful sword which ultimately leads him to the Kahani. Yet he fought in space wars and they have radiation weapons.
Admittedly, there is a scene near the end where the good guys run into a space dock to fight with the swords, only to discover the bad guys are using energy weapons. Until they can disarm the energy weapons, they have to hide behind proton bulkheads. The throne room is lit with huge candles. Why don’t they use ambient electronic lighting rather than smoky candles?
Lin Carter obviously used the swords and candles to achieve the swashbuckling effect so popular at the time. Despite those anachronisms, the story works. It is the classic white hats vs the black hats with the winner getting the beautiful woman. The Man Without a Planet is predictable from the beginning. Even so, it’s fun and uplifting.
It was originally published with Time to Live by John Rackham and is currently out of print. If, like me, you’re lucky, you might be able to find a used copy to read.
Notice: Non-graphic violence