Despoilers of the Golden Empire, by Randall Garrett

January 19, 2013 at 10:17 (Adventure, Book Reviews, Fiction, Mediocre Books) (, , , , )




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.

“The sun, a yellow G-O star, hung hotly just above the towering mountains to the east. The alien air smelled odd in the men’s nostrils, and the weird foliage seemed to rustle menacingly.”

-Despoilers of the Golden Empire

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.



  1. Joachim Boaz said,

    Hmm, I’ve never read any of this works. I am tempted, regardless, alas… I do have a strange penchant for bad sci-fi.

    • J. Holsworth Stevenson said,

      Despoilers is available on Project Gutenberg. It’s short enough that (in spite of its manifold failings) you won’t have wasted your time. I would never call Randall Garrett “bad science fiction”. Unpolished, unprofessional, and flawed science fiction, certainly. But I’ve been very impressed with him thus far, and would consider him a diamond in the rough.

  2. Joachim Boaz said,

    I just realized that I have his co-written work with Laurence M. Janifer Brain Twister (1962) waiting to be read — but it was under under the name Mark Philips so I forgot it was him…

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