Lone Star Planet
By H. Beam Piper and John J. McGuire
Published by LibriVox
Read by Mark Nelson
This is a relatively short novel that has been published several times with another short novel by H. Beam Piper, Four Day Planet. The stories have nothing to do with one another and don’t even take place in the same future history, so I suppose the pairing is due to the similarity of their names, although the original name for this one was A Planet for Texans.
Stephen Silk, a wise-ass member of the Solar League’s “Hooligan Diplomats” finds himself appointed the ambassador to a libertarian paradise called New Texas where, similar to H. L. Mencken proposal in “The Malevolent Jobholder,” it is not a crime to kill a politician if said politician has acted against the benefit of the people. Silk’s first introduction to the justice system of New Texas is a trial of a man who openly admits he assassinated a politician with a machete and the man is not only let off by the court but commended highly because the politician in question had proposed a tax on personal income. The fact I first read this story in junior high school may go a long way toward explain my vaguely libertarian leanings.
Had the authors included the classic Western line, “He needed killing,” it would have fit right in.
The New Texans, though, are a mostly polite and friendly bunch, having taken every Texan stereotype to heart and made institutions of them. Having found, perhaps, the best meat-producing animal in the galaxy on their new world, the Supercow, they are the butcher shop to nearly everyone. A bit eccentric, but a valued part of the galactic economy, they might have remained an independent world, but it turns out a dog-like alien species called the s’Srauff find that New Texas’ location suits them just fine in their militant plans. Problem is, they are seen as talking dogs, and no self-respecting New Texan is about to be scared of a dog.
The story is a gem of science fiction. While kept light-hearted with action and suspense, there are some points made about any form of government and its purpose that the casual reader might miss; that a leader is ultimately responsible to his or her constituents. Is that taken to its extreme in this book or are we just too lily-livered to do the job right here in the real world? By the end of the book you may well find yourself hankering for a barbecue supercow sandwich in one hand and a six-shooter in the other.
I’ve read this book several times and enjoyed it every time. It is available as a free download, by the way, from Project Gutenberg.
Mark Nelson is another of LibriVox’s professional voice artists who donate their time to record books that are in the public domain. He reads this book very well and brings it to life. My main complaint is that part way into the book he decided to start using a Texas accent on the introductory materials that is so thick that even the old cowhand who hasn’t been off the trail in two decades would tell him to take the sock out of his mouth. Then again, the man has read over nine hundred tracks for LibriVox, so perhaps this was a means to make it a bit more interesting for him too.
Fortunately he does not read the entire book in that horrendous accent and while some of his accents might be considered “funny voices,” they are, for the most part, reasonable for the characters who are speaking.
So all in all, this is a great book disguised as a space opera and Mister Nelson reads it well when he isn’t trying to be clever about the intro stuff at the beginning of each track. Buy, or download the book and/or audiobook and get ready for some of the most entertaining of classic science fiction.