Attention, Earthlings! This is Captain Blastoff, coming to you from the Galaxy Gallery in the far-flung future, talking about that great popular art form of the past, Cheap Science Fiction Book Covers!
The first side we’ll look at is The Star Magicians by Lin Carter:
I’ve often wondered why the “good” barbarian is always pitted against the evil sorcerer in so many fantasy books? I mean, who do they think are reading these books anyway? Jocks? No, it’s usually the more bookish nerd who has, after all, much more in common with someone who has studied “ancient lore and forgotten tomes” to gain in intellectual power than some belching, farting caveman with a sword.
After reading this book, I can see why Mr. Carter was picked to finish the Conan books back in the 1970s of your 20th century. The star-system-stomping barbarians are the “bad guys” in this very fantasyish sci-fi novel, and for once the (super-scientific) Magicians get to be the “good guys,” but, by the end, Lin makes it clear that he sees a role for warriors in the cosmos.
The book was good, somewhat kitschy, comic-bookish fun and it has another great cover by Jack Gaughan. This guy must’ve had it in his contract that he got credit for his covers, ’cause he’s the “most mentioned” so far, in this blog. (See Mighty Merlin and the Toothy Bat).
Once again note the flow of Jack’s layout: The Green Goddess apparition is very out of proportion, the way her long left arm reaches far down to the bad-ol’-barbarians-in-the-bubbles! But it works wonderfully within the over-all rhythm of the painting! Even the title works as part of the composition.
The flip side of this Ace treasure is The Off-Worlders (The God Killers) by John Baxter:
Cover by the renown Kelly Freas (and a small interior illo, too?) Normally, no one is a bigger fan of Freas than me-as, but the description of these pre-war buildings in the book is much cooler: Pod houses attached to the stalk elevators like fruit on a plant. Why’d ya’ make it more conventional, Kelly? Still, look at all’a those pastel Freas hues. Ouuui! Ahhhh! Niiice colors…!
The star spanning civilization of Earth is crumbling. Merryland is a planet beyond “the Limit.” After their own version of Armageddon, the little world has renounced technology and Christianity. People live like Pilgrims, farming and fishing. No progress is ever made. Secret Christian rituals are practiced, but they are a cross between a Roman Catholic liturgy and a naked, drugged Bacchanalia! And then off-worlders arrive by matter transport…
As broad and unsophisticated as the space opera, The Star Magicians, is, that’s how strange, subtle and dream-like it’s Ace Double Book spouse is. (I guess opposites attract even in the publishing world?)The characters are multi-layered and the societal situation’s complexities keep one wondering ’til the end.
I liked both sides of this book; Just in different ways…
This has been Captain Blastoff, ending transmission.