By Mike Resnick
ISBN 0 09 944600 6
"They say his father was a comet and his mother was a cosmic wind, that he juggles planets as if they were feathers and wreastles with black holes just to work up an appetite. They say he never sleeps, and that his eyes burn brighter than a nova, and that his shout can level mountains. They call him Santiago."
And so begins Mike Resnick’s science fiction romp that reads like part-Paul Bunyan, part-50’s Golden Age Space Opera. And behind all the a-hootin’ and a-hollerin’, there’s quite a subtle look at the characters of both the protagonist, the bounty hunter Sebastian Nightingale Cain – the ‘Songbird’, his opponent, the king of the bandits, Santiago, and the society they live in.
This is societal science fiction; the characters and their motivations are what Resnick is examining. The technology is glossed over – space ships are needle-shaped Golden Age rockets that whisk the characters from world to world in some sort of futuristic road movie. Individual planets blend together, as perhaps they do to the characters – “people get tired of worlds", remarks Geronimo Gentry, early on in the book – often the only bits of them the characters see is the spaceport and the road to and from the hotel they do business in.
All through the hunt for Santiago, Sebastian Cain is forced to re-examine his own life – freedom fighter, to rebel, to criminal, to bounty hunter – and compare the realities of the Human Democracy – massive waste and corruption – with the alleged crimes of the man he had undertaken to kill.
A good read, for its wildness of vision, its humour, its commentary on human nature.
There's a brief review on Wikipedia.