by James Gunn and Jack Williamson
Tor, $16.99, 304pp
Copyright 1955, Reprint November 2014
First published in 1955, this is the novel that inspired both Samuel Delany and Edward Bryant to become science fiction writers, as the afterword notes. If you want all of the grand essence of Asimov's Foundation series or Herbert's Dune series, but condensed into a 290 page story, then try this. It's that great, and lives on as one of the most significant yet underappreciated classics of the genre. Why should this, that could be considered the best science fiction novel ever, be so overlooked? A couple things do work against it: it was written before Women's Lib of the 1970s and so has outdated gender roles. The strong female lead is still a damsel in distress, even though she helps run the most powerful corporation in the galaxy. This corporation has become an oppressive Empire and the story is all about its collapse at the hands of the assassin who kills the Company Director, her father. Yes, why would our culture ignore a masterpiece about a sympathetic hero who assassinates the CEO of the biggest business? I dunno ...
Maybe I do know. Part of the greatness of this approach is that it's the anti-War and Peace, standing that trope on its head. Instead of deciding to not kill Napoleon, our hero starts out as an ignorant pawn who starts the ball rolling by going through with the deed. Perhaps Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment is the best story that got away with the protagonist committing murder at the start because he's tormented by guilt for the rest of the novel. And now back to Star Bridge, we can note that while our hero is not exactly more burdened by guilt, he is more disillusioned the more that he learns. What a novel: monopoly capitalism, collapse of empire, anti-War and Peace, and scifi Crime and Punishment all rolled into one, with romance and life-or-death violent action all the way through. Yes, a masterpiece. ~~ ML Fringe