L. Neil Smith's THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 884, August 7, 2016
Lone Star Planet by H. Beam Piper & J.J. McGuire: a Book Review
by Jeff Fullerton
Attribute to L. Neil Smith's The Libertarian Enterprise
I became a fan of the SF writer H.Beam Piper in my college days in the early 1980s when I discovered and read his novel: The Uller Uprising. It had a very impressive cover of a man in full NBC suit cradling a rifle and a mushroom cloud of an atomic explosion in the background. And contained an equally impressive story of a military commander by the name of Von Schlicten who puts down a revolt by a race of four- armed lizard-like aliens with a silicon based biology on a far off colonial planet of the Terran Federation. In this work Piper demonstrated his talent as a world builder in his descriptions of the planet Uller and another world that plays an important role in the plot.
Until recently; that the only work I had read by that author though through the years I'd heard much about H. Beam Piper and various other novels set in his Terro-Human Future History Universe that appears every bit as rich as the Heinlein timeline. Perhaps most famous is the series called Fuzzy Sapiens aka The Other Human Race set on the world of another nearby star. Someday I will have to read that one as well as his Crosstime series that begins with Lord Kalvan of Otherwhen that was probably the granddaddy of parallel history SF—but my time is limited and so I must prioritize.
So it was destined to be Lone Star Planet—originally published as A Planet for Texans in the late 1950s. It is a short novella written tongue in cheek about the diplomatic mission of Solar League diplomat Stephen Silk who is assigned to fill the post of a recently assassinated ambassador to the planet of New Texas—an independent world in the Capella system founded by Texans where it is legal to shoot politicians.
Now that has an appealing ring in an age where politics has gotten so bad that it is a struggle to be creative in lieu of the depression it has wrought. That I say at risk of inviting a knock on the door by the authorities or getting rounded up in the coming purge. Read the latest election coverage and it is easy to understand why old curmudgeons might grumble about shooting the bastards or a story about a planet where politicians are used as clay pigeons is an appealing escape from the grind of current reality.
Which it most certainly is.
Lone Star Planet is enjoyable from the get go where Stephen Silk is called into the office to receive his travel orders. Which has the appearance of banishment to a dangerous post as punishment for a magazine article he authored under the pen name of Machiavelli.
His mission: to assume the post of the recently assassinated Solar League ambassador Silas Cumshaw who was the latest of a series of ambassadors who were either rubbed out or quit the post and went native. With the help of his assistant—a New Texas native Hoddy Ringo he is charged with investigation of the circumstances of the death of Ambassador Cumshaw and the case which is being tried in the Court of Political Justice is of great interest to the Solar League as the issue of diplomatic immunity hangs in the balance should it be ruled a justifiable political assassination.
Also there is the issue of the z'Srauff: a race of sapient beings that evolved from canine type ancestors as opposed to primates and may have a role in the assassination as well as posing a mortal threat to New Texas which is located on the frontier of the Solar League near their native star cluster.
A little background on New Texas. The planet was founded by Texans—the entire population of the former Lone Star State which was unhappy with life under the global rule of the Solar League so they decided to quit Earth and mobilized their industrial base to build a fleet of starships to move their entire population to the new planet in the Capella system. They also disassembled the Alamo and brought it along brick by brick and rebuilt it and their culture around it.
And what a culture it is. With a rowdy frontier edge and lots of fun celebrations with barbecued Supercow—a huge mammalian creature native to the planet which ranchers herd and try to control with tanks and bombers. The well armed ranchers also will not tolerate government encroachment and that is the basis for maintaining a free society. New Texas early on is called the Butcher shop of the Galaxy for both its role as a source of Supercow meat which is the major export industry as well as its violent political culture. The main source of conflict in the plot line is the contention of whether New Texas should remain free and independent or join the Solar League for protection from the z'Srauff which are starting to flex their muscle in the sector. The movements of their fleets and Solar League vessels in the system build an exciting level of intrigue as the proceedings of the court unfold. And the rebuke of the z'Srauff ambassador whom Silk calls by the epithet of "Fido" is priceless!
Lone Star Planet is an awesomely good read that will lift your spirits in these depressing times with its satyrical humor. It can be had for free as an audiobook on YouTube or read on Gutenberg but you might actually want to find and buy a hard copy version as it surely is a collectible work of art!
Books and Stories by H. Beam Piper at Project Gutenberg
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