The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

Nightflyers is a collection of four short stories and two novellas originally published in science-fiction anthologies and the magazine Analog between 1973 and 1980. Although the stories vary widely in setting, all but one take place on far-away planets or on deep-space vessels and feature human characters thousands of years in the future. All the stories deal with problems characters must confront, whether posed by alien circumstances or by personal dilemmas.

In some of the stories, the source of conflict is external. “Override,” for example, is about Kabaraijian, a “corpse handler” who mines for gems on a harsh colony world by mentally controlling a team of debrained felons. When his control is overridden, he must use his wits to survive. Unlike the capable Kabaraijian, Andrew Birch of “Weekend in a War Zone” is an underdog who finds himself in an unpleasant situation when he signs up to fight in combat set up for profit by two competing organizations that cater to macho militarism. “And Seven Times Never Kill Man” is set on a colony world in which a religious-military faction called the Steel Angels threatens the existence of the peaceful native Jaenshi. Although repelled by the violence of the Steel Angels, human trader Arik neKrol attempts to teach the Jaenshi how to fight. The only ones interested are those whose shrines have been destroyed and whose clans have been scattered. The Steel Angels are subdued when the...

(The entire section is 476 words.)