The Star Fox is suffused with an eclectic, vibrant atmosphere. Whether it’s Vadasz bursting into singing and strumming, Gunnar Heim’s cursing, shouting, and plotting, Uthg-a-K’thaq’s crab accent and practical nature, or the ardent French patriotism that is the cornerstone of Heim’s voyage, there is always a character full of life on the stage, pushing the story onwards with their pep and vive. I have read some stories with a similar plot concept – hero figure acts outside the law in order to prevent an alien menace from overwhelming Earth humans – but Anderson brews a feeling of real import and urgency behind Heim’s journey.
The story was published in the mid 1960s (1964 by Signet Books, of The New American Library), which in practice means that to me, the language, descriptions, and environments all feel delightfully “retro futuristic”. However, this comes with its problems – the characters who actually go out, do things, know things, and have long conversations about politics and science are mainly manly male men. Female characters are there largely to be admired, woo’d, captured, or to confuse men, or to serve as minor advisory characters. The book also spends a fair amount of time on Gunnar Heim’s romantic life, where he largely is agonizing over his romantic life, rather than actually having a romantic life. I found this was actually a good vehicle to delve into his character, as well as being generally entertaining. However, moving on, the novel does a particularly good job at not only showing Earth’s unified World Federation and how its constituents from different places and backgrounds work together, but also showing the cracks in unity resulting from the different views and opinions of its members. It is also interesting to me in that it is particularly European-focused.
There is an oddness to the plot pacing and structure. The story flows at a fluid pace for the first 40-ish pages, jetting through days and weeks of time. Suddenly, the story becomes mired in a particular stretch of days. After this, the story skips ahead several weeks once again, before finally settling into a more sedate pace that favors scene over summary, until it finally skips one last time. Additionally, many of the obstacles and difficulties Heim and his crew encounters have little to do with his actual goal, but with the random obstacles encountered on the way, and much of the voyage and the actual enacting of the plan is skipped over in the process. It’s a little disappointing, as the novel led me to believe we were going to have a story focused heavily on the execution of Gunnar Heim’s plan, and then it ended up with that mainly being the driver for other conflicts to unfold. Still, I greatly enjoyed reading The Star Fox, as the bulk of the plot was gripping and I enjoyed the style and the characters. If you enjoy retro-feeling futurism, this might be a book to check out.
COVER ART REVIEW: I am pretty sure that the Star Fox looked nothing like a giant floating head, nor did any of the character’s heads have giant fins and booster engines on them. However, I do like the coloration of the planetoids, especially the hatching fade-to-black effect. Also, I am torn over the advert for Ian Flemming’s The Man With The Golden Gun. It’s great period dressing, and hints that the book you’re getting may be more action-y than science fiction-y, but also detracts from the feel.
OBLIGATORY BRIDGEDNESS QUOTE: This book is complete and unabridged.