Mission to the Heart Stars
By James Blish
Faber and Faber 1965/Granada 1980
ISBN 0 586 04574 0 2
This is Blish’s third juvenile novel, and a sequel to ‘The Star Dwellers’.
On the surface, ‘Mission to the Heart Stars’ is a road trip – the human protagonists have to journey to the heart of the Hegemony of Malis to justify Earth’s admittance into the mature Galactic civilization. Along the way, the characters visit a number of Hegamony controlled worlds and slowly come to realise that all the civilisations they have met have given up their freedom for the stability that the Hegemony offers them. And that the Hegamony’s stability is in fact a sterile stasis.
There are some interesting portraits of different cultures under the Hegemony, as well as some insights into the nature of the ancient ‘Angels’, whose choice of alliance with the vibrant Earthmen ensure the survival of growth and change. Blish also explores his theme of the ‘future of freedom in a high energy culture’ that he discusses briefly in the introduction.
The occasional jerkiness of the main story plot is familiar from other juvenile fiction I have re-read, where the integrity of the story arc is more important than the smoothness of the ride – especially in a limited word-count novel – but, on the whole, I enjoyed this story.
And the cover art is by Chris Foss, which is always inspirational.
Other books by James Blish: Cities in Flight