I think I might write a series of articles over revisiting various things I loved during my childhood, and going back and finding if they have any appeal to me as an adult. I don’t know how frequent they’ll be, but I thought I’d start with a series of books by an author I adored (one of many) when I was growing up in Alice Springs.
Given my mother’s love of Science Fiction, and the religious viewing of Doctor Who, it isn’t all that surprising that as soon as I discovered that I loved to read (which would have been when I was around 10 years old or so) that I found the science fiction books at the public library.
Today’s post is on the Last Legionary Quartet by Douglas Hill (now out of print, but available second hand on Amazon and in second hand bookshops (where I got mine)), a typical space faring adventure but with some really interesting tweaks. First up, the first book of the series, Galactic Warlord was published in 1980, a time I certainly associate with bad science in science fiction, however Douglas Hill has gone out of his way to ensure that the science in the books is as accurate as it can be. Space is three dimensional and a vacuum (so no noise in space), and performing sudden manoeuvres in space will result in g-forces being applied to the craft and pilot. Some future technology is incredibly similar to 1980s technology with tapes and keyboards in use, but there is a large array of energy weapons, faster than light travel and different worlds, so that certainly makes up for it.
The next best thing about the series is that it is not sexist. Yes the main character is male, but it is clearly stated from the beginning that he is from a world where the entire adult population could be turned into an army, where everyone is trained to be a warrior from early childhood, and that his squad’s gender make-up was secondary to its capability. So the main character could have been a woman. Women are not written as sex objects, nurturers, princesses needing rescue or victims of circumstance, they are strong, capable, leaders, agitators, aggressive, good, evil, wise, and just like men. At one point the hero hesitates in attacking a woman, not because she is a woman but because he thought she was on his side and his friend.
Another positive in the series is that there are humans who settled on other planets in the galaxy (it turns out that humans are the only sentient life form in this galaxy), and who have developed beneficial mutations to survive on those planets. Those planets are collectively known as the “altered worlds” and the emotive word “mutant” is rarely used throughout the book. The inhabitents of those planets are referred to coming from the “altered worlds”, but no value judgement is made about any difference that has developed in that group of humans. Additionally, any individual who comes from those planets (and this holds true for all individuals in the book regardless of where they have come from) is taken to not be a representative of their race/planet/home world system/type. So if someone is evil in the book, that person is evil, not all people like them.
That last positive that I’d to note out of this series is that the hero can’t always win the day on his own. He has a non-human companion – an alien from another galaxy, who is female and non-humanoid – who comes to his rescue, shields him when required (she’s a telepath), and who is completely capable on her own.
This series really lives up to my memories of it – in fact I’d forgotten how awesome they were. I’m enjoying it immensely and only have two books to go before I’m done. They’re quite short – so all four books is normal novel size. I was sad to find out recently that Douglas Hill had died just after submitting the final manuscript for the last book in another of his series (one I haven’t read in its entirety), but given how good The Last Legionary Quartet is turning out, I’m going to go and hunt down all the books of his I can, and enjoy them all.