Space Mavericks by Michael Kring
|Book Name:||Space Mavericks|
|Publisher(s):||Kable News Co|
|Release Date:||April 1984|
And on those words you are carried away into a world of adventure and action. Actually, as this is sci-fi, more than one world.
I own two copies of this book. I had to buy a second when the first started to fall apart from many years of re-reading. In fact, I just finished a re-read last week (as of writing this that is). In his recent article, Cameron Johnston named it as one of his best books – no argument from me!
Anyway, my first copy travelled with me on my Year 9 skiing trip to Switzerland all the way back in 198-alongtimeago. I read it on the never-ending coach trip through Europe. It was an overnight trip and staring at the scenery was impossible. There was also the constant waft of burnt apple which mounted a constant assault on my nostrils. Another child had split their apple juice right over the heater which was on full blast. Lovely.
I didn’t finish the book on the journey. I fell asleep. Somehow. I don’t fall asleep on journeys. That’s a good thing, I’m usually driving. Clearly, not back then. That would have been totally wrong.
On a bright note, no one broke a leg on that trip! Almost unheard of in the history of the school.
Space Mavericks by Michael Kring is one of my all-time favourite books. It is also one that is oft quoted as having the worst prose of all time. It doesn’t, believe me, I’ve read and written much worse. Much, much worse.
In this book, which I thought was a one shot for almost twenty years, Fripp Enos, through whose eyes we see the whole story unfold, is a freighter pilot. With his friend and business partner, Kohn, they travel the spheres, making a living off the cargo the Union, the big boys of cargo hauling, don’t want. It isn’t an easy life, but at least they get to travel the stars.
Landing on a backwater planet, completing their latest job, Fripp heads into town to check out a museum of star travel – a passion of his – while his partner heads off to sell the cargo and purchase more. So far, so Elite. Travelling the space lanes, trading, looking for opportunities to make cash, and keep the ship in parts. It is also very Wild West – planets with their own strange ways, sheriff’s doing their own thing, bar fights, and people reaching far too quickly for a gun.
However, passing a dark alley, he hears a scream and goes to the rescue of a young girl.
From here, it all goes wrong. Chased across star systems, shot at, crashing, and being captured, Fripp and Kohn try their damndest to save the young girl they’ve rescued. The book is fast paced and there are enough moments of surprise and betrayal to keep your interest – no chapter is wasted, something is always happening.
There are a couple of things that lift this book, published in 1980, that raise it above a “standard” sci-fi novel. First, Warp. The USS Enterprise hits warp 7 and everyone watches the viewscreen and drinks Earl Grey Tea. The Millennium Falcon slips into hyper-drive and the computer does most of the driving. Not in Space Mavericks. Slipping the freighter between the spheres which mark out different regions of space is not something a computer can do. It is all about the feel and reactions. Fripp experiences it as feelings, as colours against closed eyes, as smells – it all brings the whole journey, the risk, to life. The whole notion of spheres, warp, and actually flying through it brings the journey to life in a way that some space operas dismiss with jump gates or barely a mention of how hard it is.
Second, Fripp was modified. Too many of his friends were stomped by the Union goons, suffering life changing injuries. This means that when Fripp ‘activates’, claws spring from his fingers and toes, fangs snap into place, his strength is increased and reaction time is faster than any man can match. You’re thinking Wolverine, who first appeared in 1974, and there are some similarities inasmuch as the claws and some later developments reveal. Unlike the spandex clad hero, Fripp is not a lover of violence and killing, often empathising with his enemies. He could kill, but chooses not to.
Third, mystery is introduced through a lost civilisation and ring found in ruins. What happened to them? Will we find out? The book ends with this still a mystery, which could be annoying, but isn’t.
Space Mavericks reaches a really satisfying conclusion and for that reason I thought it was the only one. I came back from Switzerland able to do a decent snowplough and having had cheese fondue for the first time (actually, I can’t recall if I’ve ever eaten it since) and having read the book three times through. Years later, the back cover was held on by electrical tape, the pages were stained by spilt coffee and the cover was dog-eared. Searching on eBay for a replacement I stumbled across the sequel. The one I never knew existed, and bought it. Happy times!
Like quite a few fans of this book, I’ve wondered what happened to oft rumoured third book and to the author Michael Kring. Where is he? What happened to the book and to Fripp and Kohn. There are questions raised in the first book that need answering, the second book builds upon but it needs that conclusion. Someone needs to find that book or write it!