The problem with Randall Garrett, is that he was a writer with a tremendous imagination and an enormous stock of cleverness and creativity, but without a matching talent for writing. Despoilers of the Golden Empire showcases a terrific amount of clunky clauses and grammatical errors, some truly dreadful schoolboy dialogue, and reads much like an extended exercise from the workbook of a particularly gifted college student still learning his trade. Nevertheless, the surprise element of the story is managed with an almost careless finesse: it is difficult to criticise an author who–in the midst of his unprofessional demeanour–is nevertheless so very convincing.
It might almost be said that Garrett’s short stories lend themselves perfectly towards adaptation, where a clever idea might be seized upon, and all the unrefined penmanship in the world forgiven in a heartbeat–were it not for the perverse fact that so many of his stories are so intractably and immutably wed to their literary format, and by their nature would be deucedly difficult to adapt. Instead then, they ought to be read and cherished by those patient enough to recognise in his words an impatient dreamer, satisfied with scribbling his brainwave (or his private joke, or his tantalising but unfinished sketch) and abandoning it in mid-stroke. Misshapen, unlovely, but interesting in a very unique and attractive way.