Friday, 3 February 2017

Junkyard Planet

The Cosmic Computer

One of the best space opera genre books I have ever read is “The Cosmic Computer” by H. Beam Piper (1963).  Originally titled “Junkyard Planet”.  I was drawn to the book in the late 1970’s after seeing the brilliant cover on a bookshelf at a local library. Later I was able to afford to buy a paperback copy which got read and read again several times.  In recent years I was even able to locate a hardcover version published by AEgypan Press.

The novel revolves around the schemes of young man Conn Maxwell and his entrepreneur father Rodney Maxwell to drag their frontier world of Poictesme out of a slow slide into ruin. The setting is the long night after a Galactic Terran Empire has fought a Civil war that has crippled its economy. Poictesme was on the front lines of the conflict with veterans of the losing side common among its citizens. Caches of war supplies and mothballed military bases are scattered all over the planet. Rodney Maxwell makes a living opening up these bases and selling the equipment.

Through an elaborate plot involving the search for a positronic brain (A.I.) Conn and his father trick and con their friends and business partners into re-establishing space flight and building a new center of trade for this sector of space.  The novel has spaceflight, exploration, pirates, laser battles and a top-notch setting perfect for a Stars without Number setting.

As a postscript. The copyright for The Cosmic Computer has lapsed so it is available from the Gutenberg project as text and audio book for free.

I definitely want to place a scaled down version of Poictesme in my SWN setting Wolf Sector. A planet that used to be a Terran Mandate base that now has a salvage culture selling equipment, weapons and possibly ship parts to traders from off-planet.


Tags        Farmland, Mothballed Terran Mandate bases, Large Spaceport.
Enemies    Pirates in Volcano base, Claim-jumper, Hostile robot
Friends        Local salvager, Business Patron, Mayor of Spaceport
Compl.        Map to base is not what it seems, Spacecraft needs rare part.
Things        Abandoned scrapped spaceship, military vehicles
Places        Spaceport, Military base, Mobile medical base.

Tethras is a temperate terraformed world with a light agriculture base and a burgeoning wine industry. Esgari Red is one of the most popular wines in the sector.  But most of the economy on Tethras is based around the salvage that comes from closed military bases. Before the “silence” Tethras was home to a large Military base for the Terran Mandate. The largest base in this entire area of space (4-5 sectors). The agriculture industry sprang up to support the huge population of military personnel. After the scream the majority of the military personnel boarded the few jump capable ships and left for the core worlds. The remaining population was left behind to fend for themselves as best they could. The population was greatly reduced and there were moments in the first 100 years where anarchy took hold but the planet is now fairly stable. There are still areas of the planet that are lawless but the local government (led by a hereditary Port Manager) is well armed from the caches of military supplies and few entities try to harass them.

No comments:

Post a comment