here is something to be said about old Space Opera novels from the golden era of sci-fi. The plots aren’t dogged down in technical details (you simply point a ship in the direction you want to go and go) and one man can pretty much change the course of the narrative. Realism doesn’t get in the way too much. And that’s pretty much Battle for the Stars, a 1961 novel by one of the classical masters, Edmond Hamilton. I found myself really enjoying this book.
So the human empire has largely fragmented. In the center is Earth, royal yet impotent. Six large space empires have formed and two of them (the Lyra Sector and the Orion Sector) are all but in a shooting war at this point. Hero and commander of the fifth Lyrian Fleet, Jay Birel, makes this clear in the opener as he creeps his ship into a beautifully described sea of stars, hunting for Orion trespassers. A graduate of the James T. Kirk school of putting himself at risk, he even goes down to the planet the aliens are thought to have landed on to confront them. It all turns on him, then turns back as he is saved at the last minute by his quick-acting crew. Yes, it’s all fun and games and not a single red-shirt got burned.
But there are bigger things in store for Jay. It is believed that Orion is going to make a play for Earth (as if owning the homeworld would gain them some sort of legitimacy for their empire). Jay travels to Earth with the Fifth, outwardly attending a commemoration of Earth and its magnificence (sic) but really to find out the evil Orion plot and stop it. It’s all excitement and adventures, beautiful women and gun-fights in the dark, all the good fun you can expect from space opera.
Yes, I did enjoy this novel. If you find it floating in some bookstore, pick it up. Or ask me and I’ll give you my old yellowing sixty year old paperback. Good fun.