Saturday, 31 March 2001

Harry Harrison: Star Smashers of the Galaxy Rangers (1973)

Edition: Orbit, 1976 (Buy from Amazon)
Review number: 794

As spoofs go, this must rank as one of the most outrageous ever written. Like many science fiction fans, I have a considerable affection for the space operas of writers like E.E. "Doc" Smith, but I would have to admit that they are poorly written, sexist and sometimes - usually unconsciously - racist. (They succeed because of their imagination - things like galaxy destroying weapons - even though written at a time when Mars was as far as most science fiction was willing to travel.)

The parodistic relationship with Smith in particular is very clear at the start, which is based extremely closely on his first novel, Skylark. Two college boys are playing with a particle accelerator and some cheddar cheese when they discover a portable space warp. They set off with this in a Jumbo Jet, with their girlfriend (who can't decide which of them she prefers) and school janitor and Communist spy John, the token black character.

The story is funny in its own right, as well as being a merciless parody of the shortcomings of the genre. It also possesses a wonderful twist at the end which, like many of the jokes, would be spoilt by repetition.

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