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The Book of Skaith Volume 1: The Ginger Star (Planet Stories Library) Paperback – 31 Jul 2008

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Product details

  • Paperback: 220 pages
  • Publisher: Paizo Publishing, LLC. (31 July 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1601250843
  • ISBN-13: 978-1601250841
  • Product Dimensions: 13.7 x 1.5 x 20.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,995,596 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback
The Ginger Star is the first book in the Skaith trilogy, covering the further adventures of Eric John Stark after Secret of Sinharat/People of the Talisman. Stark now finds himself on a barren world orbiting a failing star, searching for his foster father. There has been a prophecy made about this "dark man without a tribe" however, and so Stark is hindered in his search by those wishing him both weal and woe. Despite all this, Stark grimly continues his search, just wishing to find his father and get off-planet (possibly with a love interest at his side). But things are never easy.

Written in the 1970's, this book has echoes of the Dying Earth mileau created by Jack Vance. There is a dying world under a dimming sun, and a mixture of fantasy and science fiction which is wholly unsurprising to the characters: prophecy is real and taken (very) seriously, there are dark gods requiring human sacrifice, and fighting is done with swords, tooth and claw rather than laser pistols. But in all that there are starships and aliens, genetic manipulation and remnants of a greater civilisation fallen into decay. In fact, the crux of the story is not so much Stark's search for his father, as the response of Skaith to the arrival of spaceships in the last dozen years, and the effect this has had on social order and power structures.

This is a great book to read - the characters are lifelike, the dialogue crackles, and the story well plotted and told. Scenes are memorable - the introduction of Gerrith, the cave of the Skaith-Children, the first meeting with a Wandsman. Brackett was a great storyteller, and she created a wonderful world here to enjoy. This book should be more widely read and loved, as it is a shame that somehow the Skaith stories were lost in the epic fantasies of the 80's.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0x8e768138) out of 5 stars 10 reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8dd34cb4) out of 5 stars Gritty fantasy under Old Sun 2 Dec. 2009
By Manly Reading - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
The Ginger Star is the first book in the Skaith trilogy, covering the further adventures of Eric John Stark after Secret of Sinharat/People of the Talisman. Stark now finds himself on a barren world orbiting a failing star, searching for his foster father. There has been a prophecy made about this "dark man without a tribe" however, and so Stark is hindered in his search by those wishing him both weal and woe. Despite all this, Stark grimly continues his search, just wishing to find his father and get off-planet (possibly with a love interest at his side). But things are never easy.

Written in the 1970's, this book has echoes of the Dying Earth mileau created by Jack Vance. There is a dying world under a dimming sun, and a mixture of fantasy and science fiction which is wholly unsurprising to the characters: prophecy is real and taken (very) seriously, there are dark gods requiring human sacrifice, and fighting is done with swords, tooth and claw rather than laser pistols. But in all that there are starships and aliens, genetic manipulation and remnants of a greater civilisation fallen into decay. In fact, the crux of the story is not so much Stark's search for his father, as the response of Skaith to the arrival of spaceships in the last dozen years, and the effect this has had on social order and power structures.

This is a great book to read - the characters are lifelike, the dialogue crackles, and the story well plotted and told. Scenes are memorable - the introduction of Gerrith, the cave of the Skaith-Children, the first meeting with a Wandsman. Brackett was a great storyteller, and she created a wonderful world here to enjoy. This book should be more widely read and loved, as it is a shame that somehow the Skaith stories were lost in the epic fantasies of the 80's.
HASH(0x8dd34d08) out of 5 stars "The Queen Of Space Opera" Comes Roaring Back 2 Feb. 2016
By s.ferber - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Old-time fans of Leigh Brackett's most famous character, Eric John Stark, would have to exercise a great deal of patience after the first three Stark stories--"Queen of the Martian Catacombs," "Enchantress of Venus" and "Black Queen of Mars"--appeared in the pages of "Planet Stories" magazine, from 1949 – '51. It would be a good 13 years before the author revisited her "Conan of the spaceways," and then it was to only revise and expand the first and third tales to create the short novels "The Secret of Sinharat" and "People of the Talisman." Another decade would pass before Brackett touched on the character again (to be fair, Leigh was more of a screenwriter for film and television at this point in her career), but in 1974, the patience of her fans was finally rewarded with the release of "The Ginger Star," the opening salvo of what has since become known as the Skaith Trilogy. Like the earlier Stark outings, the new book was a pleasing mixture of space opera and sword & sorcery-type fantasy; unlike the earlier works, the new book found Stark not on Mars or Venus, but rather, on a world many light-years from his home planet of Mercury. Fortunately for her readers, Brackett's winning way with a robust adventure tale, fleshed out with beautifully descriptive prose, remained most definitely intact. As Scottish sci-fi critic David Pringle would later write of "The Ginger Star," it is "colourful, well-turned escapism in an old-fashioned vein."

In "The Ginger Star," Stark undertakes a mission on his own, with no support from the Galactic Union. His old mentor and savior, Simon Ashton, had disappeared on the planet Skaith while conducting a diplomatic mission. Skaith was a planet that had only recently been contacted. A world in decline, it consisted of various city-states whose populations--as Brackett describes their cultures, architecture, weaponry and the like--would seem to correspond to those of the Europe of Earth's Middle Ages. Now, residents of the city-state of Irnan have made a request to the G.U. to emigrate from their old world, which request has caused the rulers of Skaith--the Lords Protector and their subservient Wandsmen--to shut down the G.U. consulate. Stark is immediately embroiled in trouble upon his arrival, and is ultimately forced to make a journey of many hundreds of miles to locate his old friend, falling in with any number of diverse folk en route. His goal: the mysterious locale known as the Citadel, far in the frozen north, where the Lords Protector supposedly reside. But to reach there, he must first pass through the hostile city of Izvand, the treacherous Darklands, the masked people of the Towers, the paganlike Outdwellers, the metalworkers of Thyra, and the gene-altered, mountain-dwelling Children of Skaith, before finally crossing the Plain of Worldheart and facing the legendary Northhounds. Fortunately for him, he acquires some allies during his lengthy quest: a band of Irnanese fighting for their freedom to emigrate, and Gerrith, a beautiful prophetess, with whom he enters into a sort of passionate affair....

Endlessly inventive, colorful and action packed, "The Ginger Star" is a bravura return for both Eric John Stark and his creator. Brackett, who had spent much of the preceding decade writing scripts for such films as "Hatari!," "El Dorado" and "Rio Lobo" (all directed by Howard Hawks and all starring John Wayne), as well as the Robert Altman-directed neo-noir "The Long Goodbye" (and who would shortly commence work on a little something called "The Empire Strikes Back"), demonstrates in her first novel in 10 years that she had lost not one iota of her authorial prowess. It is a triumphant return to form for the so-called "Queen of Space Opera." Brackett adds many ingenious little touches to her story, such as the genetically modified Children of the Sea, who have elected to return to the oceans to live; the "pod masters," who are in charge of bands of folks undergoing a radical form of group therapy; the "love-weed," which induces instant randiness in its consumers; and the haglike Sun Worshippers of Izvand, naked except for the black bags over their heads.

The author bracket(t)s her novel with two exciting set pieces: In the first, Stark battles one of those monstrous Children of the Sea in the creature's watery domain; in the second, Stark goes up against Flay, the telepathic leader of the Northhounds. "The Ginger Star" is peopled with a large cast of characters, and there is simply no way for the reader to discern which of these characters will be sticking around and which will be summarily dispatched. George R.R. Martin, it would appear, was hardly the first fantasist to shockingly do away with seemingly major characters in his fictions! Brackett employs archaic language on occasion ("We go there somewhiles to trade for tools and weapons") to reinforce the notion of a medieval culture, and indeed, similar to the earlier Stark tales, if it were not for the planetary setting, the genetic sports and those telepathic canines, this could almost be a Conan tale as told by Robert E. Howard. As in "People of the Talisman," one of the book's central mysteries revolves around what lies beyond a high mountain pass; a pass that is guarded by an ancient city. In both instances, the answer is nothing that the reader could ever hope to imagine. The novel in question, I might add, is peripatetic if it is anything, and this reader was more than happy that--as is the case with many of the finest epic fantasies--a detailed map has been included in the book's opening pages. It wasn't absolutely necessary, but it certainly did help me envisage Stark's winding journey.

"The Ginger Star," it should be noted, does not wrap up neatly. By the novel's end, Stark HAS achieved his primary objective of finding his mentor, Ashton, but many plot threads remain unresolved. The plight of the rebellious Irnanese, and the question of Skaith's isolation from or welcoming of the Galactic Union, remain. In addition, by the book's conclusion, Stark's ally, the Irnanese fighting man Halk, as well as the seeress Gerrith, are in the clutches of the tyrannical Wandsmen. Guess I'm going to have to dive into book #2 now, "The Hounds of Skaith," to see what happens next....

(By the way, this review originally appeared on the Fantasy Literature website...a most excellent destination for all fans of Leigh Brackett....)
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8e6e17f8) out of 5 stars Super Reader 11 Mar. 2008
By average - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Mass Market Paperback
The Dark Mark cometh.

As part of a most excellent Brackett 'Space Opera Noir from the master' ebook bundle, from Baen.

The title refers to the color of the sun of the planet Skaith, where this series is based.

Stark ventures there looking for an old friend and mentor, someone who was pivotal in his survival and upbringing.

Then it gets stranger. Skaith is a backwater, and speakof the Dark Man and other such Robert E. Howard appellations - that is what a prophesy suggests Stark might be - a pivotal figure in the planet's conflict.

Once he arrives, he could be in a Burroughs or Howard story, Witchfire story, backstabbing madwomen, tough guy enemies - ok, apart from the telepathic hounds, perhaps.

Certainly monster fighting and sword swinging to be done, however.

The book, is introduced by Algis Budrys, and he sets the scene for those not around for the 1974 publication, and a glossary of people and places is given at the end, for this a little out of the ordinary planetary romance on a dying world setting.

Not a brilliant book by any stretch, as you would probably guess, but it is very compelling, as he who was N'Chaka the wild man, the Wolfshead (has anyone been called by the titles of two Howard stories in one book before?), searches for his friend among many deadly enemies on a planet full of people disinclined to believe in the existence of the outside Galactic Union.

I think you can get them from Paizo and Planet Stories, too, as another option.

I don't think anyone who likes the whole family of space hero/planetary romance supermen type of story will regret reading these books for a second, as Brackett certainly has more talent than most of the writers of the same.

This is a 3.5+ if you like.

3.5 out of 5
HASH(0x8dd34f90) out of 5 stars A great classic 21 May 2014
By Thomas Eugene Galusha - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I had read Leigh Brackett as a teen, and loved it. I was delighted after all these years to rediscover her. Like CJ Moore, in my opinion, reading Brackett is as rewarding and informative to a student of science fiction as Asimov or Heinlein, as Leiber or Dick.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8dd34f30) out of 5 stars Outstanding science fiction 7 Feb. 2009
By David Pruette - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I knew that Leigh Brackett wrote the initial story for The Empire Strikes Back, but I did not know that she had written The Ginger Star in 1974. I admit that I was not reading much science fiction in those days, so I first became aware of the book and the Stark series when I read recently that an upcoming volume would have an introduction by George Lucas. That got my attention, and I decided to give the books a try. I am certainly glad that I did.

This book is an epic science fiction tale. The hero Eric John Stark travels to the planet of Skaith, a terrible place at the edge of the known universe, in an effort to save Simon Ashton, his foster father. Stark's biological parents were killed when he was very young, and he was then raised for a number of years by aborigines before coming under the influence of Ashton. All of these influences turned him into the warrior he is in this story.

The basic plot of Ms Brackett's book is that Simon Ashton goes missing on Skaith and Stark goes after him in the face of overwhelming odds. When Stark arrives on Skaith, he learns that he apparently is the key figure in a mysterious prophecy about the Dark Man. This does not simplify his mission. In his search for Ashton, Stark is accompanied by a small band of heroes that he picks up along the way. He runs into extremely memorable evil characters and manages to survive a number of perilous situations.

The characters in the book will grab your attention. The descriptions of the land through which he passes are memorable, and the action is excellent. I found the book to be one that I did not want to put down. I am very pleased that there are further books to read in the Stark series. I also want to give full credit to Paizo for publishing their Planet Stories books. Their objective is to introduce classic or possibly overlooked science fiction books to a new audience, and I think they will be successful. The books are in a nice trade paperback format with slightly lurid covers. (Note: The correct cover for the book is the one shown in the customer image on Amazon.) I look forward to reading about Stark's next adventure.
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