Overstars Mail: Imperial Challenge
Overstars Mail: Imperial Challenge is an old-fashioned space opera, kind of like a cross between Star Wars and an E.E. “Doc” Smith novel. The story began well, dragged a bit in the middle and then ended screaming for a sequel. Cyn, the hero, is a fantastic character, but the supporting cast doesn’t measure up to him.
Cyn Lystris grew up as a Free Trader. He loved the life and his freedom to roam about the galaxy but hated getting shot at, so he took a job with Overstars Mail. No one messes with the OM. Cyn and his ship, which he affectionately calls the Piss Pot (it looks like an overturned chamber pot), travel from planet to planet, ferrying messages, delivering cargo, and taking on the occasional passenger.
One day, after a tryst with a nymph on a pleasure resort, Cyn goes back to work. He picks up six passengers and a crate that says it contains a wild animal. (Note: the passengers are all beings known as fremales and frefems and the abbreviation Gellis uses for them is Fr. I am a Catholic and that’s the abbreviation we use for Father. For a long time into the book, I kept thinking that Cyn had a cargo of priests.) No sooner do they go into orbit, than they are caught by a tractor beam. In the confusion, the crate opens and Cyn finds that it contains a young fem named Niais, who looks like a nymph from the pleasure planet.
Cyn uses some Free Trader tactics to get out of the tractor beam, but he’s not out of trouble. One or more of the passengers is involved with Imperial politics, something Cyn has stayed away from. Also, two Overstars Mail ships have disappeared and Cyn does not want to be the third. Someone is planting bugs in the equipment, they end up far from their programmed course, and Niais (who is a nymph) wants to play with all the men.
I haven’t read a good space opera since Harry Harrison’s Star Smashers of the Galaxy Rangers, and while not nearly as good that that one, Overstars Mail: Imperial Challenge was a rousing good adventure. Cyn is a stalwart hero, quick on his feet, able to think fast, and devoted, really devoted, to his beloved ship. There’s a bit of a romance between Cyn and Aimee, one of the passengers, but it is only a minor blip on Cyn’s emotional radar. His first and best love is his ship.
The secondary characters are just not all that interesting. It wasn’t until fairly late in the story that I got them all sorted out and just when they got in focus, the story was over. Niais, the nymph, was kind of distasteful; the other characters were sexually attracted to her, which is what she was trained for, but they kept describing her as “a child.” This was too “Lolita” for me and it creeped me out.
Fans of science fiction, especially old-fashioned space opera, have not had much to read lately except Star Wars novels. While it’s not the best of its type, Overstars Mail: Imperial Challenge is a fun enough read that will keep SF fans occupied.