Renowned smuggler Han Solo might have the fastest ship in the galaxy, but the Kessel Run is a trade route used by unscrupulous scoundrels, not a race of speed. We all know the 12 parsec debate, and I’m sure most of us would like to see a little more about the challenge. But the idea of interstellar completion is intriguing.
When preparing for our annual weekend foray into the world of motorsports, it suddenly became apparent that there was little in science fiction that dealt with racing. Surely a sport noted for its rise from the competitive hubris of alcohol smugglers can have a suitable representative in works of literature, specifically those dealing in science fiction.
What I found is a book called Clypsis by Jeffrey A. Carver. Written in 1987 and published by Bantam Spectra, the story is the first in the brief series “Roger Zelazny’s Alien Speedway” which also includes the 1988 books Pitfall by Thomas Wylde and The Web, also by Wylde.
Clypsis follows the tradition of young character determination familiar to the works of Heinlein, but with the fast paced cinematic action we’ve grown to expect in today’s science fiction. Mike Murray is a sixteen year old who always has his mind in the stars, dreaming of one day becoming a famous space racer. An orphan who finally gets to live with his aunt after numerous stints with foster families, suddenly has his life turned upside-down once again when his only living relative dies of a bizarre alien insect bite.
Not wanting to go through the bureaucracy of government social workers again, Mike turns to some well-placed friends who help him escape Earth. Following a fast paced journey through space and a handful of odd jobs aboard some notorious superluminal ships, he ends up at Clypsis. Clypsis is an entire solar system dedicated to racing through space. But once there, our hero discovers that he must start at the bottom before he can have an opportunity to rise to the top.
This series of books is the original brainchild of author Roger Zelazny who had penned the iconic 1969 story Damnation Alley (which I reviewed here just over a year ago). Zelazny provides a brief introduction detailing how the concept materialized and what it took to get it to print.
Admittedly, it is difficult to read this book without thinking about classic works like Space Cadet and Have Space Suit – Will Travel. As a fan of Heinlein, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The story is entertaining enough to keep the reader’s attention while allowing the main character to develop and grow. Some of the progression is a bit over the top and a tad too quick to be believable, but luckily the characters will keep the reader cheering along.
Clypsis by Jeffrey A. Carver has the look of a classic science fiction with just the right amount of action to keep the reader interested. Being the first book in a short series, the search for the other two installments is already happening.