To sum up the experience of reading Space Vulture, two words will suffice: GREAT FUN!
When this more-fun-than-the-law-should-allow retro-SF novel begins, readers (who need not take too much of Space Vulture too seriously) are introduced to Gil Terry, a con-artist with an impressive criminal background and complicated past who is now, despite some uncomfortable physical setbacks, enthusiastically engaged in stealing a high value commodity from isolated Verlinap, a remote interstellar colony.
Then the legendary hero and famous lawman, Galactic Marshal Captain Victor Corsaire, shows up and, motivated by more than the obvious reasons, arrests the hapless planet-hopping thief. While at otherwise idyllic Verlinap, Corsaire, a universally respected swashbuckler with a complicated past, meets the beautiful Cali Russell, the colony's chief administrator, and her two sons Eliot and Regin. Everything is going on wonderfully for everyone, except for the captured Gil Terry, when a serious series of problems arrives in the form of the Star Class fighting ship Talon, piloted by the infamous Space Vulture.
Space Vulture is the 'ruthless scourge of outer space' and 'curse of the universe,' an archetypal villain with a complicated past. (Do you begin to see pattern developing here?) Moreover, and more problematic for Corsaire, Cali, and all the colonists of Verlinap, Space Vulture, as the blood-thirsty leader of a 'ruthless army of injustice,' is a diabolical slave trader, and he wastes no time capturing everyone (except for Gil who seems unworthy of Space Vulture's efforts, and Eliot and Regin who somehow avoid capture simply through hiding).
Then, the action ratchets up into some sort of photon-based-hyper-drive as Gil, Eliot, and Regin (using Gil's inferior older starship) pursue the vile Space Vulture in an attempt to rescue the not-so-helpless captives; but the roller-coaster ride for readers includes more than a simple chase-and-rescue as Corsair and Space Vulture (through numerous confrontations, escapes, recaptures, and more confrontations) play out a classic good-versus-evil morality play among the stars and planets.
The thoroughly unpretentious and charmingly entertaining Space Vulture was clearly written for readers of all ages; the younger readers will enjoy the straightforward space opera plot and action, and the older readers will likely also enjoy the thematic focus on the nature vs. nurture argument about ways in which personality and character develop as well as the thematic attention to some other sophisticated issues, especially the limits and ethics of modern medical technology.
I confess that my reading of Space Vulture was profoundly affected by nostalgia for the good old days of SF; the decades rolled away, and I was awash in pleasant memories of my earliest experiences with SF, particularly when devouring mountains of comic books (resembling so much the beautifully garish 1940s cover art on the book's dust jacket) and, more particularly, when jumping up and down to the adventures of Captain Video and Captain Midnight (both of early b&w television years) and Commander Cody (of movie serial fame in the 1950s).
For readers who savor a return to a more heavenly era of SF - through an occasionally camp but consistently entertaining adventure tale - Space Vulture is highly recommended. (And if you want a really off-the-wall reason to experience the fun and excitement of Space Vulture, consider this: how often are you going to have the chance to read a book co-authored by a genuine archbishop?)
-- Tim Davis