Remember Arthur C. Clarke's words "any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic"? Well, take that one step further -- any sufficiently advanced civilization is indistinguishable from gods. A terrifying prospect, but considering that the Aztecs revered the Spanish conquerers as gods (at first), it's one that's all too plausible.
"Denner's Wreck" plays with this concept -- of humans granted their every whim, even immortality, via technology visiting a backwater world for an extended vacation, and the natives mistaking them for gods. And while it doesn't grapple with the implications of how such worship and power can be misused (save for a throwaway speech by a character towards the end), the concept does provide the backbone for an entertaining pulp sci-fi novel.
On Denner's Wreck (a planet so named because the "natives" are the descendents of the survivors of an ancient shipwreck), a young native hunter named Bredon falls prey to a trick by Geste the Trickster, one of the godlike Powers of the planet. Feeling guilty for duping Bredon, Geste offers to grant him a wish. When Bredon requests a face-to-face meeting with Lady Sunlight, said to be the most reclusive and beautiful of the Powers, Geste is eager to fulfill the request, since it will give him an opportunity to prank Lady Sunlight as well. Neither native nor Trickster realize that Bredon's wish will uncover a conspiracy to destroy the Powers... and reveal to Bredon the true nature of the "gods."
As stated before, "Denner's Wreck" mostly avoids exploring his topic in depth, and thus misses out on the opportunity to start some thought-provoking discussions on various issues -- the nature of godhood, the dangers of colonialism, and whether it's best to use higher technology to aid a less-developed civilization or to let them develop at their own pace, to name a few. Denner's Wreck is fairly slim for a novel (indeed, at 200 pages it's almost novella-length), so I believe there could have been plenty of room for exploration without bogging down the story.
Despite this, though, I highly enjoyed "Denner's Wreck." It's a rip-roaring adventure story, with likable heroes and an appropriately sinister villain, and the snippets of mythology -- in particular the tales of the Powers that grace the beginning of each chapter -- give just enough of a mystical feel that we can identify with Bredon's awe and wonder at coming face to face with the "gods." That, and it's always heartening to read a tale of an underdog among heroes, and to see the underdog come out on top.
A good, fun pulp novel, nothing deep but enjoyable for when you just want a mindless but enjoyable sci-fi read.