Monday, April 28, 2008

Space Viking by H. Beam Piper

I haven't read this novel. I bought it because I like the cover. Before I read it, or read anything about it, I'd like to invite the readers of this weblog to join me in extrapolating a brief synopsis of the book from the cover alone. Afterwards, we can all read the novel together, and figure out whose idea came closest to the actual text, and if any of our plots are any better than the late H. Beam Piper's.


testpattern said...

The Throgonian Empire came to Earth in 1984. Their conquest of the planet was swift and embarrassing. After weeks of tense peace negotiations, the Earth diplomatic mission emerged from Versailles with the puzzling announcement that the only concession that the Throgonian Empire demanded in return for a resumption of full sovereignty to the nations of the Earth was the transfer of ownership of the Minnesota Vikings, for which they were prepared to offer a very generous payment, in platinum. A few die hard fans protested, but over all, it seemed to be a fair trade, as the Vikings had never won a Super Bowl. Also, as the team's ownership pointed out, they could fairly easily start a new franchise with the same name, as the Throgonians were not party to the various NFL rules about duplicate names and trademarks. This not being the Vikings winning-est lineup, ever the most die-hard fans came around

The Viking Purchase was the result of a misreading by Throgonian religious scholars of some of their culture's ancient texts, which were written entirely in a dead language whose alphabet consisted entirely of subtleties of odor contained in leaky terra-cotta tanks. At the end of the novel, it is revealed that the passage that was read as saying "Oh hie thee hence to Manhome and bring thee hither yon Vikings" actually read "Woe betide him who ignores the barking of the midnight clam."

Nevertheless, the introduction of the virile athletes to the Throgonian homeworld proves to be disastrous, as the Throgonians, despite their superior technology are culturally bereft. The team members find themselves elevated into poet-kings for their ability to recite from memory the plots of hundreds of hours of network television, novels, and films. Quarterback Steve Dils was especially revered for his completion of what the Thoragonians call The Dallas Cycles, cleverly recycling plots from Voltaire and Shakespeare to bring the chronciles of Clan Ewing to a satisfying conclusion that rivals the Dallas we know. Another notable aspect of this portion of the novel is Piper's clever use of tight-end Mike Mularky and defensive-end Mark Mullaney's characters as Guildenstern and Rosenkrantz analogues, with no one in the story--including their teammates--being able to remember which one is which.

The '84 Vikings eventually become such an integral part of Throgonian culture, that when the Throgonians themselves are invaded, the populace naturally turns to them as their saviors. The invaders, the fierce seventeen-foot tall ffGrnykk!s, are no match for the blitz attack that the Purple put up. Despite their lack of military training, the Vikes show a natural mastery of strategy and tactics, and decimate the ffGrnykk! invasion fleet handily. However, their victory is bittersweet, as the last enemy general, with his dying breath confesses that the ffGrnykk!s are the same Vikings from the future!

Ryan said...

Lazarus the Monk couldn't make his transition from 25th century religous guru to intergalactic leader of soldiers without the proper outfit. He knew that it had to be a bright color, something that would stand out, but would allow him to be able to hide in the bushes every now and again. So, he chose the color of the forest, but a bit shinier. A light, almost frothy shade of green. He sparkled among his men, so fabulous compared to the other lovely brutes.

All of the other monks in the monastery were sad to see Lazarus go. He had a couple of brothers up on that mountain who he would miss immensely. But a calling is a calling. As a matter of fact, he was called to action in an intention-control dream by his future lover. Cytherea was living fifteen years beyond the date of Lazarus' dream and believed that only a man of his stature, strength and self-knowledge would be able to take on the Blood Seeking Sweepers of Little Peaceful Creatures.

Sometime in the middle 23rd century, Earthlings came up with a sleeping hallucinogen of sorts. For a small amount of money, a patient could take a pill that would immediately send him to the sandman and be able to see the significant events of his life ahead. The pharmacological establishment at the time called this "hallucinating future", or "futuristic hallucination". Some even went so far as to call it "realistic hallucination", obviously not afraid of sounding a bit oxymoronic. Over the next century, medically-induced sleeping hallucinations became so prevalent that people started to call them intention-control dreams.

Lazarus wakes up with a raging headache--the given and understood addendum to a night of intention-control dreaming. He immediately begins to record everything that happened in his dream, all the while planning on applying this new knowledge to his life. Cytherea was exigent about his coming forth as a soldier leader to fight the Blood Seeking Sweepers. She was also in love with him.

During the years of his soldier-leading, Lazarus would fear that Cytherea told him to become a fighter not because he was distinctly capable of defending the peaceful ones, but that he would never make it to her side of the continent as a stationary monk. But Lazarus was a passionate romantic and believed in the pill. He put on his green outfit, grabbed his goddang sword, rallied his troops and headed off into the distance, the future, to defend his lady from the Blood Seeking Sweepers of Little Peaceful Creatures.