Warlord of Kor by Terry Carr
Published by Ace Books, Inc., 1963. Paperback of 97 pages for 40¢.
Note: This is an Ace Double book. It can be flipped over for an additional story, which is The Star Wasps by Robert Moore Williams.
The cover: In a canyon a man points his raygun at a giant lizard that approaches him; it, too, bears a raygun. Behind the man is a blonde haired woman looking into a gorge that’s filled with bones. Behind her is a massive robot with a single eye. The title is above the robot and in the distant skyline one can see three airships. An action packed cover that has absolutely nothing to do with the interior story. No credit is given to the artist. Note: the cover is much darker than the one than the image that accompanies this review. The photo I’ve taken is very washed out. Overall grade: C-
The premise: From the first page, “Horng sat opposite the tiny, fragile creature who held a microphone, its wires attached to an interpreting machine. He blinked his huge eyes slowly, his stiff mouth forming words of a language his race had not used for thirty thousand years. “Kor was…is…God…Knowledge.” He had tried to convey this to the small creatures who had invaded his world, but they did not heed. Their ill-equipped brains were trying futilely to comprehend the ancient race memory of his people. Now they would attempt further to discover the forbidden directives of Kor. Horng remembered, somewhere far back in the fossil layers of his thoughts, a warning. They must be stopped! If he had to, he would stamp out these creatures who were called ‘humans.'” This is what I want: aliens unable to communicate with humans, humans a threat to the aliens, and the mystery of what’s trying to be communicated. This sounds good! Overall grade: A
The characters: Lee Rynason is an archaeologist in his late twenties that works with the Hirlaj to learn about their ancient past. His interviews with Horng spurs him to learn a dark secret that could change history on the distant world of Hirlaj. Manning is gunning for power on Hirlaj, and Rynason’s findings could help or hurt him. He wants the aliens exterminated so that humans can fully colonize the world. Rene Malhomme is a religious man who has been to several alien worlds and may have some help for Lee. Mara Stephens is the lone woman in the tale, seemingly owned by Manning, but finding Rynason more desirable. She doesn’t contribute much to the story. Horng, a Hirlaj — a telepathic race, is one of the remaining members of his species on his world. He is so old the knowledge he has is overwhelming. Within his massive head could be key to his people’s past and the destruction of the humans that have invaded. Kor is the wild card of the book. Spoken of in the past tense, but possibly more vital than anyone can recall. I enjoyed these characters, their motivations, and their actions. Overall grade: A-
The settings: The buildings of the Hirlaj are massive, ancient, and crumbling. They were described just enough for them to appear ominous and awe inspiring, similar to H.P. Lovecraft’s descriptions of forbidden, hypnotic places of worship. The planet is also named Hirlaj and it’s got a ramshackle town constructed by the humans, also named Hirlaj. It may sound confusing, but it isn’t. This town resembles that of the wild west, with plenty of bars and gambling halls where humans spend what money they make. Carr’s descriptions of the settings were a perfect match for this tale. Overall grade: A
The action: This is a slow burn that ends with quite a bit of action. All the stories come to a head when the blasters drawn and shots are fired. The build to this climax was good. Overall grade: A
The conclusion: A great twist with Kor revealed and there’s some solid action. The story is concluded, but could be returned to for more on Hirlaj. This is exactly what I wanted from this type of book. Overall grade: A
The final line: Secrets, aliens, and schemes in this novella make it a fun read. I’ve read a lot of science fiction, but not encountered aliens like these before, nor have I encountered this kind of setting. I was impressed with how much characterization Carr achieved in such a limited amount of space. I will actively seek out more works by him. Overall grade: A
To read the review for the flip book go to https://scifipulse.net/in-retro-review-the-star-wasps/