I saw this book on Kindle and having first read it when I was a teenager I decided to revisit and see what I thought of it now. The picture here is actually the cover it had when I was an impressionable teenager in the 1980s! Even when I read it this was an old book – having first been published in 1963 – and it is aimed at the young adult market with a teenage protagonist.
The novel is a baby space opera, set in a future where humanity has explored the stars and met an alien race (the Lhari) who have given them access to interstellar travel – essentially a warp drive. But apparently humans cannot survive this travel without being put into suspended animation and some humans resent this, and the Lhari, who they find supercilious. A young man – Bart Steele – who is part human and part Mentorian (a race who work more closely with the Lhari) is dragged into a conspiracy to prove humans can survive this journey when his father dies/is killed. Transforming himself via surgery into a Lhari he sets out on a ship to prove that the stars are within humanity’s grasp.
The novel is slight but actually still works pretty well now. There are elements which have been dated by advances in technology but the core story still holds up. In particular it’s interesting that this is a story without making any race into the bad guys, the conflict at its heart came about through misunderstanding and fear and by the end of the book that has been dealt with openly and honestly. The small group of people with criminal intent are defeated by the protagonist coming to realise he has more in common with the Lhari he has worked with than he has with some humans.
If it has issues they’re probably reflective of the era the book was written in – a distinct lack of female characters apart from one Mentorian medic, and she has to be shoe-horned in as a love interest for the hero. But at its heart this is a positive and optimistic view of a future where people resolved their issues by talking and that’s not a bad thing to hope for…