BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Chuck, Jerry, Sally and John gallivant across the galaxy in a 747, fighting for truth, justice and the American way against the evil, mind controlling Lortonoi.
PROS: Dead on parody of ‘golden age’ space opera, story moves at a breakneck pace, silly/humorous fun.
CONS: Even at 212 pages, the style becomes old very quickly.
BOTTOM LINE: I suspect that if you enjoy the old style space opera, you will really like this one. Otherwise, Star Smashers is a good read that, stylistically, goes on for too long.
Star Smashers Of The Galaxy Rangers starts out with friends Chuck and Jerry working on their home made particle accelerator. As a joke, Jerry places a piece of cheese in the accelerator’s target area instead of a bit of rubidium. The resulting mess the friends quickly realize is a new element, Cheddite. Cheddite has the curious property of being able to move any object enormous distances in space. They quickly integrate their Cheddite projector into the control system of their school’s football team’s (on which they play) 747 and their adventures in space begin!
Star Smashers is a parody of the worst ‘golden age’ space opera had to offer. All the characters are hyper-competent in all fields, for instance, physics, football and piloting among others. The men are all rugged and muscular and the women are blonde, faint occasionally, and know their place in society. The aliens are alien and the evil ones are truly alien. With mind control powers. Oh, and they can speak English very well. It’s been a long time since I read any old, old school space opera, but the flavor here seems dead on. Obstacles are overcome in a matter of sentences. In one instance, Sally has been frozen solid and the hero’s alien allies don’t have any hospital available to help out. No problem! John, as well as being an expert surgeon, neuro and otherwise, is also handy with a lathe and machine shop. In the time it takes Jerry and Chuck to retrieve Sally from the 747, John has created all the instruments and machines he needs to revive Sally. Other problems, no matter how large, are taken care of in similar fashion, while allies are made with just a few short sentences of conversation. All of this adds to the ‘golly gee whiz!’ atmosphere of the story, even if there is a total lack of any scientific credibility or believability to the story. This is, of course the point as Harrison uses this setting to poke fun at just about everything including democracy, communism, free markets, gender roles and college among a lot of others. As a parody, Star Smashers really hits the nail on the head.
However, even at just over two hundred pages, I found the style to become quite a bit of drag on the story. As the threats to our hero’s, and the galaxy, become larger, they still have little trouble overcoming them, usually after just a few moments of thought. This progression becomes old very quickly, and no amount of silly situations or humor overcomes the drag. I’m thinking that I would have little patience for the simple, yet far out, stories of the earlier space opera era. Near the end, I was just plowing through the story trying to see how it ended so I could finish. Which is too bad, since Harrison does a good job of mimicing the style and flavor of bad space opera while adding buckets of satire.
I suspect that if you enjoy the old style space opera, you will really like this one. Otherwise, Star Smashers is a good read that, stylistically, goes on for too long.