Budrys, Algis -- The Amsirs and the Iron Thorn

Of all the SF writers of the 50s and 60s, Algis Budrys is most famous for being unpronounceable and for the edition of Rogue Moon which was spelled "Rouge Moon" on the spine. I never read any of his early stuff, but I remember a 1970s computer thriller called Michaelmas. Should probably go find that again. (I look over the tide of new books coming towards me, and retire that thought without comment.)

Here, however, is an ancient (1967, fifty-cent) paperback, fallen into my grasp. Being a pulp-ish novel of the old days, it's short (150 pages). The cover (Frazetta, very faded) shows a guy with a pointy hat facing down some kind of green man-bat monster which is awkwardly holding a spear. (Bats sort of have hands...) Worth a shot?

Absolutely! I open the book and bam, it's an Amsir hunt. Must've in the old days, a writer knew how to bag you in the first page -- because they were giants who walked the earth, or because he only had 149 more to work in? Who knows. But the Amsir, the monster, is sparely described ("graceful as a goblin bride") and then we meet Honor White Jackson, who chases it under his pointy hat. The hat is crucial. So is the hunt, the Hon -- "Honor" is a job title -- and the Hon will last one short chapter, after which you will have to unlearn some of what you picked up in those seven pages. After the second short chapter, you'll have to unlearn the rest of it. The plot continues turning over completely every couple of chapters thereafter.

I'm not sure this is a novel. (It was originally a magazine serial.) It certainly has no regard for novelistic convention; Honor White Jackson (not called that for long) is not after the respect of his brother, the love of the girl next door, or any sort of narrative closure. He's too smart for that. (The barbarian with a pointy stick, by the way, is a Genius Protagonist; always a step ahead; rendered with no flourish and dead convincing. Try and keep up.)

By the end, Jackson (and we) have travelled between planets, dealt with technology and a post-scarcity society that would fit absolutely undated in a Banks Culture novel, been on reality TV, and gained -- again, I'm not sure. The chance to tell his story, I guess is the point. Or be the butt of the joke. Whatever works.

Randall Garrett once made a pun about an "algae buttress", so we know that much.

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