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Star Force

Star Force by Robert E. MillsStar Force
Belmont Tower Books, 1978
Price I paid: none

In this dazzling climax to “Star Quest Series,” Red Rian, Lady Nila and Dann Oryzon, the intrepid space travellers of STAR QUEST and STAR FIGHTERS, conclude their extraterrestrial adventures. Under the guidance of the warrior-mystic Garthane, they are led into their most perilous advcenture so far.

The Dark Emperor had spawned a new generation of immortal annihilators, more evil and more powerful than the universe had ever seen. Would they be able to turn the tide against the Fellowship of Light and the forces of good?

Here it is, folks, the final chapter! I am so delighted to be done with this series. It’s just amazing that this work got published in the first place, especially as it became increasingly apparent neither the author nor the editor gave two craps about how this book looked, sounded, or reflected upon them.

I’ve commented on some of this before, but these books, and this one especially, had so many problems with editing. Basic problems.

The big one was that there were no section breaks between point-of-view shifts. This was most common during battle scenes, and by that I especially mean space battle scenes, so frequently it would seem like the adversaries were in the same ship talking to each other. It was really hard to follow.

The other thing was that certain characters would talk in italics, which was supposed to indicate that they were communicating psychically. In a way that’s all right. It’s nice to be able to indicate that someone is using a different means of communication that regular talking. Terry Pratchett did it masterfully. The problem with these books is that using italics means that it’s hard to tell if a creature like Ylang-Ylang or Lord Blorg is actually communicating something or is just thinking to itself. I think I commented on this when I reviewed Star Quest.

Adding to this problem is that sometimes the author also used quotation marks. Quotes and italics. At the same time. But not always. And not always in the same situation. The book might have a statement start with quotation marks, spell out what the thing was psycically communicating, and then fail to have concluding quotes.

And then there was the fact that sometimes there would be italics for absolutely no reason.

Story-wise, the book had a lot of the same problems in common with its predecessors. Dann Oryzon, the not-a-Jedi-we-promise, barely did anything again. The book was so focused on Red Rian and Nila that at times I wondered if the author forgot about Dann.

It also had the problem of not getting on with the freaking story. Again, the first half or so of the book was just standing around, talking about things that were not important, and spending a lot of time expositioning us on matters like relationships and the true nature of love.

This book kicks off by continuing the story of the love triangle. Lady Nila still hasn’t decided whether she should give herself to Dann or to Red Rian, and the book is more or less the story of a woman being indecisive. She has, at least in her mind, very good reasons for not being able to make a decision, but I just wanted to shout at her that maybe the solution is to give up on both of them for the present and focus on the threat that might well destroy all life in the universe.

She finally decides on Red Rian. There are love scenes that, while not explicit, go on for a long time.

The tech guy, Ween, also finds a nice lady named Oruna. She’s also into technology, so they’re really compatable, but there are also long-but-not-explicit bedroom scenes that just don’t do anything. Also of note is that she’s from “Umolo, in the Ogonda system of Phorbos,” which coupled with her “dark skin” is just a shade away from sounding like she’s from the Bwongo system of Space-Africa. It was just a little offensive.

Fortunately none of that really came up again, and she avoided being some kind of weird space-racist stereotype. What’s more weird, though, is that she consistently refers to Ween, her lover, as child.

EEEK

Dann Oryzon, depressed that Nila chose to bed down with Red Rian, decides to go back to the Fellowship’s homeworld. In tow is a young lady, Valennia, who loves him although he doesn’t know it.

Oh god all the interpersonal drama. Let’s talk about something else.

So Ylang-Ylang is still alive and he’s trying to get the support of some people named the Kallidorians. They have impressive mind powers, easily the match of the Fellowship of Light. Ylang-Ylang offers them immortality to match his own if they’ll help him take down the League of Free Worlds. Some of them are eager to help, but others are more hesitatant, especially considering that the Kallidorians themselves aren’t actually evil.

And remember how at the end of the last book Red Rian left Lord Blorg “there to die” and I got all mad because it was so obvious that Blorg obviously wasn’t dead? I’m glad to see I’m right about this kind of thing. Blorg is not only still alive, but he’s been granted a new body by Ylang-Ylang, one of shiny metal and pure evil and what I think was supposed to be a nuclear reactor or something. It turns out that Blorg is now highly resisant to all damage and is otherwise completely immortal until our heroes figure something out at the end of the book that is really stupid. Like I needed to tell you that.

So since Garthane, the leader of the Fellowship of Light, makes all the decisions, he’s the one who puts the first plan into action. He also decides to approach the Kallidorians and beg their help, or at least their neutrality.

So while Ylang-Ylang offers the Kallidorians immortality, Garthane counters with an offer of the ability to love. The Kallidorians are skeptical of his offer, saying that love is a weakness, but he claims to have a way to convince them otherwise. He brings along the people who spent the beginning of the book making out and allows the Kallidorians to peek into their minds, giving them the ability to feel how nice it is by proxy.

This goes pretty well, except two of the Kallidorians decide they like it so much that they ask Red Rian and Nila if they’d like to swing a little bit. The two of them decline the offer, but then the Kallidorians use their mind control powers to seduce them and it’s really creepy. More than creepy. It certainly qualifies as rape, which if the book had ever commented on it again might have made an interesting subplot but there you go.

Speaking of rape, these books are really loose with that word. Servants of Ylang-Ylang are referred to as “mind-raped,” and the actions of the Dark Empire on worlds they conquer are also frequently called “rape.” I know that times have changed and words are used differently today than they were in 1978, but the almost flippant use of that word still makes me very uncomfortable. I feel like even in 1978 we should have known better.

Garthane’s offer interests some of the Kallidorians, so there you go. Meanwhile, Ylang-Ylang is brooding and Lord Blorg is out rampaging around the universe. Together they decide that the best thing they could do is a massive fleet action against the homeworld of the Fellowship and Aurea Solis, the de facto capital of the League of Free Worlds.

Both of the sides in this conflict do a lot of “mass the entire fleet together” actions, and it’s weird because it seems like there’s always a lot of fleet left over after a devastating defeat. One gets the feeling that it takes a couple of hours to remake the entire fleet.

Blorg’s effort never actually goes into action, I think. Everything goes pretty hazy around here. It seems that somebody attacks somebody else, and then there’s an attack somewhere, and maybe somebody gets attacked. That’s what this whole war feels like, which honestly feels kind of realistic.

What’s important is that Garthane amasses a force of the Fellowship of Light (except Dann, of course) to attack Ylang-Ylang directly. They focus their mind powers on him and cause a great deal of pain, but it’s not enough. Ylang-Ylang lashes back and kills Garthane and the rest of the Fellowship. I say that, but Garthane lives just long enough to see the Kallidorians show up and finish the job. He then gives us some platitudes and dies with a smile on his face.

More than anything, Garthane exists to give us ridiculous platitudes that don’t mean anything and, more importantly, don’t even sound especially profound. They are usually along the lines of “Love is a glimpse into the Infinite” and “The Inifinite is great” and “Be nice to each other I guess.” He’s not a mystic, he’s a Javascript random cliché generator from 1997 that touts itself as having four possible responses.

But now he’s dead so I guess that’s Dann’s job, which is great because it’s not like we ever actually see him.

Ylang-Ylang tries to flee back to his ship, the Mordling Glory (haha), but the Kallidorians finish him off before he can take off.

But that still leaves us with Lord Blorg. He’s probably less vulnerable than Ylang-Ylang at this point, since he’s also immune to psychic attacks, so our heroes have got their work cut out for them.

They meet up on Dann’s homeworld of Aquaea for some reason. Blorg and his Death Legion (or whatever it was called) show up and start doing stuff that’s nasty but vague. Dann ACTUALLY DOES SOMETHING ABOUT IT.

I KNOW.

I’M SCARED TOO.

It’s pretty anticlimactic. Dann, Valennia, and a guy named Camenarpo use their mind powers to take down the Death Legion. The whole thing. Now it’s just our heroes versus Lord Blorg.

Red Rian runs to attack him and gets beaten down. First Mate Purpur does the same thing and gets thrown into the ocean. Out of nowhere, Oruna (remember Oruna) comes up with a plan. She whispers it to Ween and they run off to put it into action.

Remember how I said it was a stupid plan? Here it goes.

The first hint of what’s going on comes when things like guns and belt buckles start flying through the air. Finally Lord Blorg succumbs to whatever it is. He loses his balance and flies through the air himself, finally colliding with the hull of his own ship, the Darkness Eternal and sticking there. The ship takes off and flies away.

We learn from Ween that they managed to convert the ship’s artifial gravity to magnetism, because converting fundamental forces to each other is pretty simple. So the ship turns into a giant magnet and sucks up Lord Blorg, who, you’ll remember, is immortal but also ferromagnetic. You’d think Ylang-Ylang would have thought of that.

Anyway, Ween and Oruna set the ship to fly into one of the suns of Aqauae, which was a nice touch of continuity.

And that’s the end of the book. Basically. There’s one last thing.

Right at the end, one of the Kallidorians that initiated the wife swap decides he wants Nila forever. So he kidnaps her, and the series ends on that cliffhanger.

Ugh.

Seriously.

The series had, up to that point, done okay on one tiny point: they hadn’t made Nila into a princess that needed rescuing. She had plenty of other problems, and the plot didn’t treat her all that well otherwise, but you know what? She still wasn’t a MacGuffin until the very end, initiating an adventure that we’ll never get to see because that’s where the series ended.

So, as you can see, this unsatifsying series ends…unsatisfyingly. Is that even a word?

But at least it’s over.

This series had very little going for it. I mostly kept reading so that I could see what new and intriguing ways it would find to make me angry at the complete hackiness it had to offer on each and every page.

I’m not sure which book I’d consider the worst. I’m leaning toward the middle one, just because of the way they managed to take Dann out of the picutre for the entire book by hitting him in the head with a rock. Dann was hardly in this one, too, but it was at least because he was off somewhere else training with the Fellowship (something that should have been dealt with much earlier in the series) and getting laid (which I can’t begrudge anybody).

Star Force did have the good graces to have a title that almost rhymes with Star Wars, and also finally gave me the satisfaction of misspelling Red Rian’s name as “Red Rain.” It took them most of the series to finally do that, and that’s incredible.

I’m glad to be done with this series, but I’m also very glad to have read it. The world of blatant ripoffery is something that I wish I delved into more often. Sure, I’ve seen a few Asylum movies, but it’s different when it’s something in writing. What I really want, and I’m hoping somebody will help me find, is a direct ripoff, something really unsubtle, that is also well-written. Not necessarily brilliant, but at least one that can consistently spell its characters names the same way throughout the text.

So that’s my challenge. What’s the best ripoff out there?

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