In this bi-weekly series reviewing classic science fiction and fantasy books, Alan Brown looks at the front lines and frontiers of the field; books about soldiers and spacers, scientists and engineers, explorers and adventurers. Stories full of what Shakespeare used to refer to as “alarums and excursions”: battles, chases, clashes, and the stuff of excitement.
Today I’ll be looking at the second volume of Leigh Brackett’s Skaith series, The Hounds of Skaith. The middle of a trilogy is a tough spot for books, as they tend to lack the freshness and energy of a first volume and the satisfying finality of a third volume. If second books were athletes, they’d be the unsung player who sets up the hero who scores to win the game. In this case, however, thanks to the headlong energy of Brackett’s barbarian hero Eric John Stark, the introduction of some fierce animal sidekicks, and a steady unfolding of new insights into the mysterious planet Skaith, this book moves along at a good clip, keeping the reader engaged throughout.