Friday, August 28, 2009

Brackett - The Hounds of Skaith

Leigh Brackett. The Hounds of Skaith. 1974. Ballantine Books.

Part two of the Eric John Stark trilogy.

Eric drove North to the enemy citadel to rescue his freind in the first volume. In this volume they move South by a different route toward the Spaceport. This time Stark has new allies, namely several very powerful war dogs he commands with telepathy. This Southern journey is at first much like the journey in part one. It has an episodic structure in which Stark's group encounters various hostle life forms. The land itself and everything on it is hostile. Once again the reader may wonder how anyone could survive on such a hostile world. At least this time fewer humanoids are willing to eat travellers.

The corrupt preisthood of the first book is still active. They control a major city and a powerful army, and more of those fiercly powerful wardogs. As Stark journeys South he realizes that to reach the Spaceport he must bypass the enemy city. And to do that he must become increasingly involved in planet politics. So as he moves he gathers an army. An army of those wanting an end to the preisthood's power. The novel's big set piece is the battle for that city. Stark makes allies and enemies. Some of each group are lost in this struggle. And always Stark is the epitome of single-minded courage and unflinching drive. He is an impossible hero; but he is a great hero. It is this depiction of Stark, and the gritty, colorful depictions of the landscape, the many well drawn characters, and Brackett's endless imagination for people's and civilizations, which make this novel a good read.

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