Jack Williamson Gerald Jonas - Essay

Gerald Jonas

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

["Star Bridge," originally published in 1955,] is not a recognized "classic" of that period. According to the reference works I consulted, it stirred no controversy, won no awards, added nothing to the reputations of its authors. Not only had I never read it before, I had not even heard of it. I mention these facts only to help the reader understand my astonishment at discovering that this obscure collaboration between Williamson and [James E.] Gunn reads more like a collaboration between Heinlein and Asimov. The concept is pure, classic science fiction: A vast empire spans the galaxy, controlled from the planet Eron which alone holds the secret to faster-than-light travel….

[What] distinguishes this book from so many other Galactic Empire novels is the physical immediacy of the images….

Williamson and Gunn understand that the grander the concept, the more the reader craves specifics. The plot concerns betrayal and salvation on an appropriately grand scale. The hero, a "soldier of fortune" named Horn, is a vulnerable superman—quite the best kind of hero for a story like this. Horn travels from the rebellious edge of the Empire to the umbilicus of Eron, to the dreaded prison world of Vantee and onward to his inevitable triumph….

If I say that the book works so well because the authors are not ashamed of what they are doing at any level, I run the risk of being misunderstood. Like all good storytellers, they manage to submerge themselves in the narrative while inviting the reader to collaborate in the task of making the impossible "real." The fact that this invitation is couched in the style of the 1950's is beside the point….

Gerald Jonas, "Of Things to Come," in The New York Times Book Review (copyright © 1977 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), February 27, 1977, pp. 24-5.∗