Last year on Pajiba and/or CBR, I asked for fun sci-fi recommendations. Harry Harrison’s Bill, the Galactic Hero series was recommended by more than a couple folks. A quick “Harry Harrison” search on my Kindle revealed this book, instead of Bill. This book was free, so I downloaded it and soaked it up.
Deathworld, despite the name, is a fun and thoughtful work of science fiction from the man who brought us Soylent Green. It combines the things that I love most about sci-fi: entertainment, imagination, and an important message.
On its surface, this book is about a space gambler, Jason who is contacted by a mysterious offworlder. The offworlder needs a bunch of money, and fast! He contacts Jason and promises a huge cut of profits so long as he can deliver. Jason, who is obviously not risk averse, probes into the stranger’s backstory and learns that he’s from a planet called Pyrrus, a.k.a. Deathworld. It’s an incredibly hostile planet, one on which Jason probably won’t survive. Jason is up for the gamble and so he silvertongues his way to Pyrrus. You’re not going to believe this, but everything is not as it seems on…DEATHWORLD. If you want to know what happens next, just download the book – it’s free and a quick read.
I’m always impressed by the prescience of sci-fi authors. While the story is entertaining on its face (what isn’t great about 1960s sci-fi), it also touches on relevant social matters such as class and environmental stewardship. The book provides a non-threatening way to get readers thinking about important ideas.
I should mention that this book is the first in a series. I don’t know if it original was written with a series in mind, but it stands alone just fine.