BOOK REVIEW: Fall of the White Ship Avatar, by Brian Daley

Rating: 1 out of 5.
  • Adventures of Alacrity Fitzhugh and Hobart Floyt (#3)
  • Published by Grafton
  • First published in 1990
  • A pulpy space opera
  • 368 pages

Alacrity Fitzhugh and Hobart Floyt have had many adventures, though none so exciting as the legends claim. Escaping from the clutches of Earth, the duo now turn their attention to the fabled White Ship, and the treasure it will undoubtedly bring to them . . .

When I picked this book up based largely on the cover, I knew I recognised the name Brian Daley from somewhere. Turns out he wrote some of the very earliest Star Wars novels, in a trilogy of adventures featuring Han Solo. With that context, Alacrity Fitzhugh and Hobart Floyt suddenly make a lot more sense. These are spacefaring rogues cut from the same cloth, getting into scrapes and facing the galaxy with a blaster in their hand and a wry grin on their face. Exactly the sort of protagonists I love reading about, in other words. Unfortunately, Fall of the White Ship Avatar failed to enthral me on just about every level.

Here is where I add the disclaimer that I have not read the previous two books in the series. I don’t know the details of this pair’s previous adventures, and I haven’t been around for any of their bonding exercises. The key elements are handily recapped, however, and the back cover make sit clear that this is the third stand-alone adventure for the pairing. With that in mind, I have no issue with reviewing the book as if it were a standalone. Obviously a little more context would have changed my opinion on the earlier parts of the book, but overall I don’t think it would have improved my final opinion of the book.

I have one singular issue with Fall of the White Ship Avatar, and it’s a big one. The setting, the story, the characters, they’re all a whole lot of fun. The sort of rollicking adventure you’d expect to find on the pages of an early twentieth science fiction magazine. That’s all great, I have a lot of affection for those pulpy stories. Here’s the problem though; the writing feels a hundred years old too. It’s not the stripped back, down to Earth prose of Asimov, which I hold in high regard. It’s not even the twisting weirdness of C.L. Moore. The prose is hard to put a label on, but it’s somewhere along the lines of Jack Vance and E.E. ‘Doc’ Smith. Purple, is a kind way of putting it. A less kind way would be to say it’s like having a thesaurus thrown at you. The vocabulary, and even the way sentences are strung together just never quite works. I’m far from a prose elitist, but this book is, to my eye, genuinely quite badly written. Maybe it’s the absolute emulation of storytelling from fifty years earlier, maybe it’s just Daley’s style, but it did not work for me at all.

Fall of the White Ship Avatar was a disappointing end to my June reading, but it’s hard to be too angry at a book I bought so cheaply, that even in its lowest ebb contains some fun ideas.

If you enjoyed this book, you might also like:
Northwest of Earth, by C.L. Moore
Space Viking, by H. Beam Piper
Galactic Patrol, by E.E. ‘Doc’ Smith

Published by Alex Hormann

I'm a writer, reader, and farmer, with an interest in all things speculative.

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