Published in 1984 by DAW Books, our story follows Grimes, a privateer who is always confused for a pirate, is paired up with Maggie, a militant surveyo. They are both on assignment to planet ‘Sparta’ which I can only describe as ancient Greek mixed with hi-tech futuristic technology. Along the way the two befriend the king as well as a tabloid journalist by the name of ‘Fanella’ & two, genetically superior, female circus performers by the name of Shirl and Darleen. While there are many good times to be spent, it’s cut short as news surfaces that the King had been kidnapped. The town’s women begin to riot & rebel and the king’s wife ‘Ellena’ becomes the defacto ruler until the king is found. Grimes & Maggie find there’s more to this national scandal than a kidnapping. The two begin to circumvent the new law by enlisting the help of Shirl, Darleen & Fanella to find clues as to where the king may be hidden.
This isn’t high art, but this also isn’t a low trash novel. Nothing cerebral about the story, just a simple Point A to Point B adventure with likable protagonists, smart supporting characters & unlikable villains. Like I said earlier the book has two themes which Bertram doesn’t really do a good job of exploring. The planet Sparta sets itself up as a kind of misogynist society, but the planet’s women aren’t being exploited or oppressed. On that same note the planet’s women don’t really have a hand in that society’s development, that is until Ellena is put as defacto ruler. I’d like to say it’s not against misogyny or feminism, but I’d be incorrect in saying so. All I can say is the book is great in giving the reader the bang for the buck as each page progresses the story, but does a pretty poor job introducing & exploring themes that would have elevated this science fiction paperback as literature than just an adventure pulp.
Still, I had a great time reading this book & I highly recommend it if you’re in the mood for a purely original (but not as thought provoking) science fiction, this is the book for you.