By the time I started reading science fiction seriously as a kid, Dangerous Visions was rocking the genre and Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? was tucked into every teenager’s backpack. The so-called New Wave had taken hold. But even so, an early visit to Barsoom, my discovery of Edmond Hamilton’s creaky Captain Future stories, and Channel 9’s Saturday morning broadcasts of the old Flash Gordon serials starring Buster Crabbe and — gasp! — Carol Hughes got me hooked on old-fashioned space opera. I read “Doc” Smith’s Lensmen books in between rounds with John Brunner and Roger Zelazny. I even began collecting those tattered copies of DC’s Showcase that featured spaceman-hero Adam Strange.
So I had a grand time with Space Vulture, a new “retro” space opera novel by Gary K. Wolf, the man who created Roger Rabbit, and John J. Myers, the archbishop of Newark, New Jersey. This odd pairing of two lifelong chums has produced a slam-bang homage specifically to Anthony Gilmore’s 1952 sci-fi adventure novel Space Hawk. Writes Wolf in his preface to Space Vulture, “I’m not exaggerating when I say Space Hawk changed my life. I grew to love science fiction so much that in later years, I wrote and published science fiction stories and novels of my own. Without Space Hawk, I would never have created Roger Rabbit. One led directly to the other.”
From its faux-pulp dust jacket, featuring the smirking visage of interstellar villain Space Vulture, to its naïve, cornball hero, Galactic Marshal Captain Victor Corsaire, to its two preadolescent protagonists and their gorgeous mom, Space Vulture is a joyful ride through every SF cliché imaginable and, surprisingly enough, a few clever ideas that might never have occurred to the likes of Anthony Gilmore, Edmond Hamilton, or “Doc” Smith. The book is a 1950s space opera with a 21st century sensibility. I grinned the whole time I was reading it. I’ve stuck my copy of Space Vulture on the shelf right alongside my old Lensmen books.
--Wally Conger, whose only problem with Space Vulture is that it features just one real Space Babe.