Chaos in Arcturus
Reviewed date: 2023 Apr 25
by Tom Wade
The Arcturus Project
I did it. I finished the Arcturus project: I have now read every published science fiction book with the word Arcturus in the title. (Excluding vanity press and self-published books.)
Chaos in Arcturus is objectively the worst of the lot. The writing is dreadful. It's full of poorly constructed run-on sentences. The best part—the only good part—of Chaos in Arcturus is the cover art, and that's only if you like lurid pulpy artwork. It's not quite my thing.
ISFDB.org tells me Karl Zeigfried is a house name of the publisher (John Spencer & Co.), and that Chaos in Arcturus was written by Tom Wade.
The spaceship Galaxy X is en route to Regulus. A cosmic storm blows it off course, and the ship crash-lands on a planet in the Arcturus solar system.
Henry and Brenda
Our hero is Henry Mortimer, the pilot of Galaxy X, and our love interest is Brenda Richards, a journalist. Other named characters are Henry's friends David Butcher (a chemist) and Bob Jordan. Someone named Paul Barnard is also mentioned, but he dies. (The entire crew dies, and pretty quickly, except for Henry, Brenda, David, and Bob.)
The planet in the Arcturus system is filled with hungry animals and vicious plants. Those who didn't die in the cosmic storm are quickly picked off by the killer wildlife. It's a dangerous place.
Vikens and Bendags
And it's not just the wildlife. The survivors are captured by a race of fox-like creatures called Vikens. The Vikens are cruel. Their leader Vard Dorval is particularly cruel, and his wife Marla is the cruelest. The Earthmen are put to work as slaves. They meet the other slaves, a race called the Bendags, who are totally human, it turns out. Henry figures that the Bendags were the original rulers of the planet (which is named Daria) and must have been overthrown by the Vikens at some point in the distant past.
Point of interest: the Vikens not only use the Bendags as slave labor, they race them like horses. (The Vikens love gambling on the Bendags, it seems. I guess in this case it's OK to bet on the two-leggeds?) Brenda and Henry both end up being put in the races. Because Earth's gravity is slightly greater than Daria's, they are naturally stronger and faster and thus have an advantage.
Henry and the others befriend a Bendag named Narida, who helps them escape. Narida brings them to a tribe of free Bendags. Henry gains the trust of the elderly tribal chief, Gool, and the up-and-coming young man named Morl. The tribe works together to build ray guns, then they launch an attack on the Vikens.
The battle—and that's all it is, one battle, not a war—is won. The Vikens are overthrown, and the Bendags regain their place as rightful rulers of Daria. Gool is too old, and he steps down from leadership. Morl tries to nominate Henry, but Henry declines and says that Morl is the one to lead the Bendags in their newly-won freedom.
Double wedding and homegoing
Henry and Brenda get married. Bob and Narida get married. The Earthmen fix their spaceship. The Earthmen plus Narida set off to return to Earth.