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Star Bridge (Collier Nucleus Science Fiction) Paperback – November, 1989

4.6 out of 5 stars 18 customer reviews

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About the Author

JAMES GUNN is the Hugo Award-winning science fiction author of The Joy Makers, The Immortals, and The Listeners, and the coauthor, with Jack Williamson, of the classic epic SF novel Star Bridge. He lives in Lawrence, Kansas.

JACK WILLIAMSON (1908–2006) was born in Arizona in 1908 and sold his first story at the age of twenty. He was the second author to be named a Grand Master of Science Fiction by SFWA and is credited with inventing the terms "terraforming" and "genetic engineering."

--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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Product Details

  • Series: Collier Nucleus Science Fiction
  • Paperback: 216 pages
  • Publisher: Collier Books; 1st edition (November 1989)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0020408811
  • ISBN-13: 978-0020408819
  • Product Dimensions: 6.9 x 4.2 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,866,847 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By R. C. Whitehead on April 14, 2000
Format: Paperback
I first read "Star Bridge" in sixth grade at the age of 11; I'm now almost 43, and I still hold this as one of the greatest SF books I've read.
Williamson's imagery and wordcraft set the standard for many of today's modern masters. His antihero Horn, the eccentric man-with-a-secret Wu, and his decaying human empire are shown in high relief, and the imagery evoked burns itself into your mind permanently.
Find and read this book; do what you must to acquire a copy, and savor it slowly. Horn's passage through the Tube and hyperspace is one of the most stirring examinations of consciousness I've yet to read; it still moves me.
Find out why one man can move an empire...
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According to Alexei and Cory Panshin, in the critical work The World Beyond the Hill, Star Bridge's genesis goes back to 1944 or so. Jack Williamson, inspired by Isaac Asimov's Foundation stories, decided to do his own "managed history/galactic empire" novel, with the working title of Star of Empire. Williamson had problems making the idea work, so that it took 10 more years plus James Gunn's assistance to finally make a story out of the idea.

And what a story! I first read this novel at the age of 9, just a few years after it came out, and have periodically re-read it every so often since then. I outgrew much of what I read in my teen years and before, but this book is one of those stories that I still enjoy now as much as I did then.

This story succeeds on more than one level. Most obviously, it is a fastpaced adventure story. On another level, it's one of those stories where things aren't quite what they seem at first glance. Or at the second (third? fourth?) glance. That, I think,is what keeps me coming back to this novel -- the thought that I may see something in it that I missed on the previous reads.

One thing that completely perplexes me is how unknown Star Bridge is, even among science fiction fandom. It is in the top rank of Williamson's work (that goes for Gunn, too), yet I find that even big fans of Williamson often have never heard of it. Hopefully there will be enough demand for used copies of this book that someone may do another reprint. I think it's about time -- and it would really be cool if it were to be made into a movie.
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Many hard science fiction novels published in the 1950s had sort of a sociological tone. Examples would be The Space Merchants, by Frederik Pohl and Cyril M. Kornbluth, which depicted merchandising run wild, or Gunner Cade, by Cyril Judd (Cyril M. Kornbluth again, and Judith Merril) with its depiction of a triumphant and oppressive militarism. In its underlying premise, Star Bridge follows the same idea, with its vision of a thousand-year-old business venture, the Eron Corporation, that has become so rich and powerful that it rules the inhabited galaxy -- it is now the Empire of Eron, reminiscent of ancient Rome.

The basic plot: Against the immense, corrupt, decadent and pitiless Eron Empire, fate (or maybe something else -- a shadowy master manipulator) pits a single man: Alan Horn. Horn is a cold, hard-edged, and extremely competent outlaw, who is eventually forced to give up his embittered, detached loner mindset when he finds himself pursued by the entire might of Eron. Horn avoids capture for a while with his sure reflexes and extraordinary resourcefulness, but eventually he realizes that no man can stay ahead of Eron forever. His answer: He will fight back. He will single-handedly bring down the mightiest empire of all time. Along the way, he gets entangled with various colorful characters, and falls in love with Wendre, the daughter of the Emperor he has assassinated.

While Star Bridge may reflect a certain fifties sci-fi mindset, such a categorization doesn't do it justice. With its fast pace, amazing imagery, brilliantly imagined physical situations, terse but subtly philosophic tone, and its constant action, Star Bridge transcends its time and place of origin.
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Star Bridge was one of the first science fiction novels that I read growing up, and my paperback copy shows the signs of wear and tear that indicate how often I have gone back to it. Jack Williamson and James Gunn produced a quality book that stands up there with the best of Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov and A. E. Van Vogt. As a historian and political scientist, I find the use of the Historian as a character a fascinating feature of the book. Star Bridge conveys a true sense of wonder that piqued my interest in the genre when I was a child, and I am very happy to now have it available in digital form for readers who can no longer find a paper copy. I do not know whether Williamson or Gunn contributed the most to its writing, but it doesn't matter. It is a tribute to both of them that this book has stood the test of time.
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Some reviewers in the distant past have rejected this novel as a "Space Opera". I think not. For starters consider that "Horn" the mercenary is a man of African descent. Oh I know, Gunn doesn't come right out with that, but the narratives of Horn being "burned black from exposure" is as close as he could go with that in the time the novel was written. The "Golden People" images the privileged and upper-crust society white people inter mixed with Chinese, perhaps. Subversive writing, for sure. The rest of the book is the usual good versus evil with the exceptional exception of "Wu" and his Star-Creature, Polly the Parrot if you will. Wu is the penultimate Puppet Master - a prescient harbinger of Chinese hegemony, except that the old Chinaman is the last of his pure race, and controlled by an extra-special Carbon-based star creature. I will leave the subject of Racial Purity up to the Dear Reader. Also the anti-big business theme, if you really think about the Tube Monopoly.
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