I don’t remember how I first found Brian Stableford’s “Hooded Swan” series, but it was back in the days before the Internet was everywhere, when people still discovered books the old-fashioned way, on the shelves of a bookshop. It was probably the spectacular Angus McKie cover art of the Pan editions that caught my eye, selling me on the book and Stableford’s universe before I’d even read the first line. Once I started reading, though, I was hooked. Many years later, the series still holds a special place in my heart.
One of the most impressive things is how much Stableford managed to cram into six slim volumes. Each book is a self-contained story in barely more than novella length. The action moves at a brisk pace, but Stableford still finds room to describe the specifics of his alien ecosystems or the politics of the larger universe. It’s all done so deftly and economically and with such apparent confidence that it comes as a shock to realize that the “Hooded Swan” novels were among his earliest works, the start of a long and prolific career.