Spacial Delivery by Gordon R. Dickson (1961)
Poor John Tardy! The one-time Olympian and current bio-chemist was on his way to join a government exploration on McBanen's Planet when he was drafted and diverted to Dilbia, an out-of-the-way plant that is important to both Earth and the Hemnoid Empire, a rival civilization, as a potential supply and refueling station for expansion beyond the Belt Stars. Ever loyal to Earth, Tardy wonders what Dilbia needs with a bio-chemist. Slowly he begins to realize that he is not needed for his scientific skills but as a political sacrificial lamb.
The natives of Dilbia are a large, bipedal, rustic, bear-like race. When I say large, I mean LARGE. They are a fierce -- sometimes cruel -- race with a strange code of ethics. Quick to take offense, they revel in one-on-one combat -- a good, old-fashioned fight without the sissy stuff, like weapons. (Think Robert E. Howard's Breckinridge Elkins, only larger, with fur. Think also of Dickson and Poul Anderson's Hokas gone bad -- and bigger.)
A very fierce Dilbian named Streamside Terror wanted to marry Boy Is She Built but Joshua Guy, the Ambassador Plenipotentiary convinced (for reasons that we will soon realize) Old Shaking Knees (Boy I She Built's father) to refuse the marriage. In retaliation against Guy, Streamside Terror has kidnapped sociologist Ty Lamorc, known to the Dilbians as Greasy Face. Tardy's mission is to get Miss Lamorc from Streamside Terror and return her to the capitol. What wasn't mentioned was, in order to do this, Tardy must fight Streamside Terror -- a fight in which he would certainly be killed. Of course, once the Terror kills Tardy, he would most likely consider his revenge had been taken and would release the girl. Problem solved. Easy peasy.
To complicate matters, the Hemnoids are busy trying to sabotage (by this I mean torture and kill) Tardy and they have recruited Boy Is She Built, who just wants to bash in Tardy's brains and be done with it.
Dilbia is a rough mountainous world with little or no available transportation. So, how to get Tardy to Streamside Terror and the kidnapped sociologist? One of the few things Dilbia has going for it is a dedicated mail service so Ambassador Guy decides to mail Tardy to Streamside Terror. Tardy gets put in Hill Bluffer (the mailman's) bag and off they go.
Spacial Delivery is an amusing, internally consistent, old-fashioned science fiction romp. By no means is it a major work, but it is fun and a good example of Dickson's early writings. The book was originally published as one half of an Ace Double (with Dickson's Time to Teleport) and was based on an earlier story "The Man in the Mailbag" (Galaxy Magazine, April 1959). Dickson returned to Dilbia with Spacepaw (1969) and the 1969 novelette "The Law-Twister Shorty" (The Many Worlds of Science Fiction, edited by Ben Bova, 1971). The two novels and the 1971 novelette were published in The Right to Arm Bears, an omnibus published in 2000.
Sounds like fun.ReplyDelete
It does sound like the kind of thing Dickson could make swing...sorry for the listing delay!ReplyDelete
I loved SPACIAL DELIVERY/TIME TO TELEPORT when I read it as a kid. Loved ACE Doubles! NIGHTSHADE BOOKS is offering many of Dickson's SF novels as ebooks at reasonable prices.ReplyDelete
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