Quest for father's honor lacks imagination (2/5)
On Wheels (1973).
Rear cover synopsis:
"THE FASTER-THAN-LIGHT SHIP THAT SIMPLY WASN'T THERE!
Majestica, with Lightcommander Duncan Edison in charge and 2,000
crewmen aboard, had vanished without a trace only moments after leaving
the planet Stardeep. Seven years later, no one had yet been able to
discover what happened to Majestica, and to most people it was a
long-forgotten tragedy. But not to Rob Edison. Rob knew his father
wasn't responsible for the disappearance of the FTLS, and he would go
clear across the galaxy to Stardeep to prove it.
But Rob wasn't
the only one looking for something on Stardeep. And what started as a
private search for the truth became a dangerous encounter with invaders
out to steal Stardeep's greatest treasure..."
Rob Edison is
simply trying to get through his studies, ace his examinations, and
enter higher education for an ultimate position in space. One day, Tal
Alroon comes to the same school and stares Rob down. As their fates
collide, Rob is reminded of the painful memory of his father's
disappearance and probable death aboard the FTL ship Majestica, which
never materialized when it entered hyperspace off the planet Stardeep.
Tal Aroon's father was on the same ship and suffered the same fate, so
Tal projects the accountability for the disaster on Rob.
excellent grades (in classes like Principles of Hyperdrive III and
Survey of Cryogenics 414) and a sympathetic robotic counselor, Rob
decides to test his faith in his father against the facts of the matter
of the ship's disappearance. Rob books a costly trip to Stardeep during
his four-week long holiday in order to peruse the data regarding the
ship, its crews, and its fateful journey. Even though a committee had
already established that his father was guilty of a Command Decision
Error, Rob feels that his involvement in the facts will ease his doubts.
on the planet of Stardeep, Rob quickly becomes ensconced with
Conservancy Patrol Commander Ling and his daughter Lyndesy. Rob obtains
permission to visit the Phylex Monitoring Station in the restricted area
of private reserve, home to the planet's indigenous life form which is
capable of clearing away ill thoughts when in close proximity to the
animal. Barton Lummas, a fellow passenger to the planet of Stardeep,
maintains a keen knowledge of these animals and is always seen wherever
Rob goes. When Barton and his android shang-hai Rob on the way to his
permissible-entry ship, Rob's quest for truth becomes a quest for
A cursory glance at the novel tells
of a rather mundane tale: boy loves father, devotes time to defend his
honor, becomes embroiled in something larger, struggles for his life,
falls in love through the turmoil, and comes out a man who's faith is
renewed in his deceased father. The overall banality of the story is
worthy of two stars--the crests and troughs of the plot are mild and
predictable. Not even the limited telepathic abilities of the Empt
critters garner much interest.
The details of the novel could
have pulled the novel up from its two-star level, but like the generic
plot, the details, too are fairly mundane and cursorily added. Nutrition
in the future is as it is in many other novels: condensed nutrition
bars, nutrition drinks, and synthetic eggs. Star transportation is
interesting but plays no part in the plot: when the FTLS ship enters
hyperspace, it is "demolecularized into a near infinity of
micro-particles" (34) where powerful fields keep the ship and passengers
in a coherent state through the hyperspace traversing. The first 20% of
the novel is about Rob's education, but this too isn't too inventive.
The school maintain the tradition didactic teacher-student relationship,
where the teacher is replaced with a screen and the counselor is
replaced with a robot. The aseptically humanistic environment has only a
tinge of emotion when closely involved with the sometimes sympathetic
The tag of "simple yet gripping" does not apply to
this novel. There's no satire, no social significance... but it does
have a pretty spaceship on the cover, which is why I picked up this
novel. After two Jakes novels, I'm not really interesting in procuring
any more of his long work, but The Best of John Jakes (1977) may be more entertaining than this cursory paperback.