Science Fiction Book Review

The Hawks of Arcturus

by Cecil Snyder III
Reviewed date: 2022 Dec 21
Rating: 1
159 pages
cover art
cover art
cover art

Arcturus project
I read The Hawks of Arcturus because I'm reading every science fiction book with the word Arcturus in the title. This one shows flashes of competence and the beginnings of several interesting stories, but the author keeps switching things up and doesn't stick with one thing for long enough to develop it. What results is part political intrigue, part murder mystery, part space opera, part love story, and--suddenly and without warning at the end--a farce.

Skip this one.

Political intrigue: The Arcturian ambassador and En'varid
The story begins with En'varid meeting the Arcturian ambassador to Earth.

And here we get to one of my first annoyances: the ambassador is never named. There's no particular reason for this bit of fancy writing. There is no payoff, it's just a writing trick for no purpose.

Anyway. En'varid tells the ambassador that Darlan, the current Herald of Arcturus, intends to secede from the Dominions of Earth and challenge Earth for supremacy. En'varid tries to persuade the ambassador to support Darlan's efforts, but the ambassador demurs; his loyalty is to Arcturus, not to Darlan, and such an attempt would be disastrous. En'varid reveals that Darlan has a trump card: he has contacted an alien race, and an alliance with the aliens may alter the balance of power. The ambassador sends En'varid on his way.

As he leaves, En'varid contemplates that soon Darlan's usefulness will end and En'varid can eliminate him. Then "the powerful families of Arcturus would surely unite behind one of their own." That is, En'varid. Herald En'varid.

Mystery: Murder on the Astrion starliner
Next we meet Chen, an asteroid prospector who's booked passage on the starliner Astrion. Chen meets a mysterious and alluring woman named Alsar. Poor Chen falls head-over-heels for her. Alsar pays him far more attention than is warranted, which made me suspicious but poor Chen is oblivious. Alsar is En'varid's personal pilot, and both En'varid and Alsar are returning to Arcturus on the Astrion. It's no surprise to the reader--but quite a shock to Chen--that En'varid is found murdered and Chen is framed for it.

And here's another complaint: why did the author deliberately set up the political intrigue at the end of chapter one--showing En'varid to be the puppet master behind Darlan--and then promptly kill him off? It's jarring and unsettling. The political intrigue has been completely dropped and now it's a straight murder mystery.

Chen is thrown into the brig. When they arrive at Arcturus Alsar manages to spring him, then she reveals that she murdered En'varid and pinned it on Chen to throw suspicion off herself.

And that brings the murder mystery bit to an abrupt end.

Space opera: on the lam, aliens, blowing up stars
Alsar leaves Chen at one of En'varid's secret underground hideouts on Arcturus. Chen decides not to stay put, so he leaves and promptly gets himself caught. Fortunately he's not caught by the local Arcturian authorities but by agents of the Dominions of Earth. They verify that he did not, in fact, murder En'varid, so they let him go. Chen gets back to his day job: prospecting in deep space.

Also at this point Chen discovers that the aliens En'varid claims Darlan had contacted are real, and also they have a superweapon that blows up stars. So now we've got the makings of a space opera.

Chen stumbles upon a rogue planet, tries to stake a claim, and is immediately caught and captured by men from an enormous alien spacecraft. In command of the spacecraft is Darlan. There are some shenanigans, wildly improbable action sequences, and clumsy infodumps, but it boils down to this: Darlan and Inman, the old prospector who raised Chen from a baby, had been partners when they made contact with peaceful aliens named Lelos. The Lelos lived on a giant spaceship called the Ship-That-Gives-Life, but interestingly that spaceship was armed with a weapon that can blow up stars. That seems unlikely to me, but hey, I didn't write the book.

Inman and Darlan both fell in love with Diastre, a Lelo woman. Darlan was jealous that he couldn't have Diastre all to himself, so he found some other bad aliens--the Andere--and made a deal with them. Darlan helped the Andere find and attack the Ship-That-Gives-Life and kill all the Lelos. In return, the Andere gave Darlan the ship. In the chaos, Inman escaped--with Diastre's baby.

It also comes out that Alsar is Diastre's daughter with Darlan and Chen is her son with Inman. A few pages later it comes out that Alsar is Diastre's daughter with Inman, not Darlan, and that Chen is Diastre's son--but whether with Darlan or Inman is unknown.

Oh, and the star-destroying super-weapon? In his escape Inman took a key piece of it, which he left to Chen upon his death. Darlan retrieves the piece from Chen, blows up a star just to prove he can, and heads back to Arcturus to declare independence and begin conquering the Dominions.

And that's the end of the space opera bit because now it turns into a farce.

Farce: Old Man Darlan
Darlan flies the huge spaceship to Arcturus and announces his grand plan. He has made a deal with aliens, he says, and with their help they will throw off the chains that bind them to Earth and form a new order with Arcturus in charge.

Of course we know that Darlan has no such treaty with the aliens. The Lelos are all dead, and the Andere are out of the picture. Why he needs such a grand deception to gain power is unclear: one would think a giant alien spaceship with the ability to blow up a sun would be enough. But anyway. Here I must refer you to a fantastic review by Thomas Anderson over at Schlock Value:

Darlan flies the ship back to Arcturus and lands it on a golf course. He lets it sit for a while, building up everybody’s curiousity, and finally he comes out and tells the assembled masses that he, Darlan, has found aliens in the galaxy, and they’re nice and want to give us stuff, and now’s the time for Arcturus to use the alien technology to slip the surly bonds of Earth, so to speak, and reign supreme over the galaxy. He announces that tomorrow, around lunchtime, the alien will hold a press conference and tell everybody that for itself.

This is where the book gets really hilarious.

The alien comes out the next day. It’s very definitely an alien. It’s got six fingers with no thumb, and an elephant snout, and a big bulbous head. It explains that it belongs to a very old race, and its race is dying, and as a sort of last will and testament for its species it wants to bequeath its wealth and technology to the people of Arcturus to do with as they please.

As it finishes this bit, Chen runs on stage and tackles the alien. Guards and audience members pounce to keep him from causing an interplanetary incident, but as they pull him off, he grabs hold of the alien’s elephant snout, which comes right off. It was a trick all along! There was no alien! And who else could it be but Old Man Darlan himself!

I kid you not! It really happened that way!

And then the book ends.

Guys, skip this one.

Archive | Search