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Review: 1968 Mission to Horatius by Mack Reynolds

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Mission to Horatius has been billed as been a "Young Adult" novel, and as for the descriptions and text narrative, it does seem very superficial, almost stereotypical of the characters. McCoy is grumpy, Scotty has engine problems and the ship desperately need R&R. So what else is new? Well, Sulu has a pet rat, it seems there needed to be a pet somewhere...

There has been a distress call received from Horatius and the ship was sent to investigate. The mission was divided into investigating three planets, the first two of which were absolutely boring: the first still in the stone age (called "Neolithia", unimaginatively taken from the geologic age "Neolithic"). The second one, called Mythra (guess from which word it's derived), is a place of rampant religious beliefs; and the third planet is "Bavarya" (full of barbarians?), tends to raid it's neighbors continously, is apparently the source of the problem.

Oh, and the ship's crew is affected by a space sickness called "cafard" (in the long tradition of having the ship affected by a disease), so everyone is pressed for time.

This might as well have been a western and a ship at sea, when writers focus more on the adventure than on the science fiction. It barely passes as an adventure tale, and it reads very shallow at points, like everybody is just doing their job dispassionately, as there is no big emotional involvement. It's nice to read a bit with familiar characters, looking into strange worlds, but it's executed badly.

Also, rare on Star Trek books, there are line-drawn illustrations, which are very basic, like the minimum for a "young adult" novel.

Reynolds does not seem to have put much of an effort, just toiling out another story for a then yet inexistent market. It really does not engage much the reader, although it does not lose you (a big problem on later novels).

I would recommend it only to know the first original novel, but the "youngification" makes it lose a lot of it's appeal. Space opera had gone out of style, but this type of novels fall easily into it.

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