Sci Fi Weekly
The spirit of pulp science fiction is alive and well in this collaboration of the sacred and the profane
Put on your space helmet and get your ray guns ready—the notorious intergalactic pirate, slaver, murderer and general all-around ne'er-do-well, Space Vulture, is about to batten on the carcass of a bloated genre, and only that stalwart hero and clean-living idol of millions, Victor Corsaire, can stop him! This loving, winking homage to the two-fisted brand of science fiction that we like to imagine once graced the pages of pulp magazines, co-authored by the creator of Roger Rabbit and the Archbishop of Newark, aspires to be a kind of sci-fi The Princess Bride. And it doesn't do a half-bad job of it, either.
...good, clean, harmless fun.
Wait ... The Archbishop of Newark? Yes, one of the authors of this breezily entertaining novel is a Roman Catholic archbishop, but rest assured: There isn't anything preachy about Space Vulture; this is one good book that sets out to entertain, not evangelize. And with veteran author Gary K. Wolf as collaborator, it's darn the proton torpedos, full speed ahead!
The novel opens on the planet Verlinap, where a low-life smuggler and con artist named Gil Terry is about to steal a load of valuable mushrooms, whose sale will allow him to pay off his bookie and thus reacquire the arm and eye said bookie now holds as collateral. In place of his missing body parts, Gil currently sports a Saurian cricket leg and the eye of a Venusian dung beetle, both of which are about as attractive and useful as you probably imagine.
Just as Gil is about to escape with his ill-gotten gains, Marshal Victor Corsaire swoops in to arrest him. Corsaire is famed throughout the galaxy as a lawman nonpareil, and a piece of space scum like Gil is no match for him. But moments later, Corsaire's archnemesis, the evil genius Space Vulture, descends to pick the planet clean and sell all its inhabitants into slavery... well, almost all. He has other plans for Cali, a beautiful widow with two small boys: dastardly, unspeakable plans. With Corsaire captive, Space Vulture releases Gil to spread the word of his triumph, then blasts off for the slave planet of Medusker.
But in his haste to enjoy his plunder, Space Vulture overlooks the absence of Cali's boys, 11-year-old Eliot and 7-year-old Regin. They are back on Verlinap, where Gil discovers them. The resourceful lads trick Gil into helping them rescue Cali, but the selfish con man vows to turn the tables as soon as possible.
Meanwhile, on Medusker, can Corsaire escape certain death in time to rescue Cali from the clutches of the lecherous Space Vulture? Does Cali even need rescuing?
SF as it used to be... and never was
Wolf and Myers are boyhood chums who, though pursuing very different careers, have remained friends and science-fiction fans. In Space Vulture they set out reproduce and gently satirize the kind of rip-roaring, male-dominated SF they fell in love with in the early 1950s. You know the tropes: Every planet has a breathable atmosphere; technology is not just indistinguishable from magic, it is magic; and gorgeous women are in need of rescue by square-chinned, omnicompetent men.
Wolf and Myers may be into nostalgia, but they aren't Neanderthals. Cali turns out to be anything but a helpless woman in need of rescue, as both Corsaire and Space Vulture discover. But neither are the authors revolutionaries. Decency, honor, fair play, morality: All these rather corny concepts are treated with solemn respect, and while there is no overt proselytizing on behalf of Catholicism, the moral code of that particular mythology underscores everything. So it's unlikely that readers will be surprised at how the relationship between the two boys and the selfish con man plays out, or at what develops between Cali and Corsaire. Or, indeed, at much of anything.
This is the kind of book that isn't really interested in surprising its readers, but rather in fulfilling their expectations. Normally, that's not a virtue I rate very highly, but in a book like this, where it's really the whole point, what counts is whether the authors take themselves or their subject too seriously, and I'm glad to report that they do not. Space Vulture has something of the zany self-mockery of The Princess Bride, and though it's a lesser work even than that bit of surprisingly enduring froth, it's still good, clean, harmless fun.
One has to wonder whether Space Vulture will constitute bedside reading for His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI... —Paul
— Paul Witcover, Sci Fi Weekly