Off the Shelf—”Star Bridge”

By Marcus Pan

Chain Border

Star BridgeBy far one of the better futuristic science fiction novels I’ve read, the duo of Jack Williamson and James E. Gunn’s Star Bridge is one I highly recommend to anyone even vaguely interested in many genres. Fans of space dramas (Star Trek, Star Wars, etc.) would enjoy the character of Horn and the elusive Mr. Wu. Those that like futuristic displays of community (Demolished Man(1), Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep(2), etc.) would find a lot to enjoy in the society of Golden Folk and the Cluster. Adventure seekers (Bio of a Space Tyrant(3), Flinx in Flunx(4) & Orphan Star, etc.) would enjoy the active rebellion that brings down the empire of Eron. There are other genres besides included here: psychology (fans of Gene Wolfe), hard science fiction (fans of Isaac Asimov)…but you get the idea.

Star Bridge is a short novel, barely crossing 200 pages in its paperback form. And while it holds a copyright that goes back to 1955 it is uniquely advanced for its time and doesn’t lose any semblance of charm the way other science fiction novels might after nearly fifty years. It was very enjoyable to read.

The basis of the novel revolves around commerce and communication. One of the great hurdles to mankind’s reaches into space is time itself. How can you build an empire that stretches out light years if it takes a generation to get there? While colonies can spring, after many years’ time, there’s almost no chance of commerce, trade and cultural exchange between these colonies – which is the basis of an empire. The scientists of one great company, Eron, develop a means of transportation that converts this problem into a solution – for them. The Tubes, golden strands of non-space that travel between worlds like great pipelines of trade. The secret of the Tubes is kept closely guarded and known only to a few high directors of the Eron corporation, and by linking worlds with their Tubes Eron becomes the iron handed empire that links worlds together and assimilates new ones into its gut.

Opening with Horn’s travel across the barren, desert landscape of Earth to the city of Sunport, where a new tube is to be opened linking Eron to its newly conquered neighbor of worlds the Cluster, Horn’s duty is to assassinate the general manager of Eron. Successful, the story picks up pace like a runaway train as Horn’s escape back to Eron with contingents of soldiers in hot pursuit leads him to join forces with the elusive Mr. Wu and his strange friend, Lil. Sucked into the very maw of the beast, Horn’s original assassination has put into effect the eventual downfall of Eron with its leaders grasping hungrily for what pieces of power are left while the empire crumbles around them with all of them searching for the secret of the Tubes.

The final confrontation between Wu and Horn sheds light on a great number of things – philosophical, practical and more. While a few items throughout the book and a few secrets can be eventually learned by astute readers, I’m sure that many of you would find the final closing chapters delightfully surprising. Once again, I recommend this book to many. The Williamson and Gunn duo have created a steadfast classic, regardless of age, that will most likely stand for much longer without losing its appeal and splendor.

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“Star Bridge” by Jack Williamson & James E. Gunn
Copyright © 1955 by Jack Williamson & James E. Gunn
A Del Rey Book Published by Ballantine Books
ISBN: 0-345-30258-3
Library of Congress Catalog Card #: 55-5468

(1) By Alfred Bester, reviewed in Legends #112.
(2) By Philip K. Dick, reviewed in Legends #97.
(3) By Piers Anthony, reviewed in Legends #120.
(4) By Alan Dean Foster, reviewed in Legends #119.

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