Lone Star Planet: The Wild West in space

Lone Star Planet by H. Beam Piper science fiction book reviewsLone Star Planet by H. Beam Piper

Lone Star Planet (1957) is a fun science fiction murder mystery novella by H. Beam Piper. The murder occurs on a planet colonized in the future by the citizens of Texas who wanted to escape the intrusive United States government on Earth. They set up a system where there’s not much centralized government and it doesn’t have much authority, for they all agree on this tenet:

Keep a government poor and weak and it’s your servant; let it get rich and powerful and it’s your master. We don’t want any masters here on New Texas.

Thus, New Texas looks a lot like the Wild West. Men wear Levis and cowboy hats and carry pistols on each hip. Everything is super-sized and even the cattle whose beef they export (which they call supercows) have to be herded with tanks and helicopters.

On New Texas it’s perfectly acceptable to shoot a politician, which is just what happened to the last ambassador from Earth — he was killed on the job. Now our hero, Stephen Silk, a minor diplomat whose superiors are displeased with him for publishing something provocative under a false name, has been sent to replace the dead ambassador. Stephen will investigate and prosecute the murder while also trying to persuade the New Texans to join the Solar League, which should be a win-win situation for both the League (which could use the tax revenue) and New Texas (which could use protection from alien enemies). The citizens of New Texas are skeptical of giving up their independence, of course, and it’s going to take a lot of persuasion to get them to trust the Solar League. And if the Texans decide to murder another ambassador, that will give the Solar League an excuse to annex the rebel planet anyway.

Piper and his co-author, John Joseph McGuire, had fun with this little spoof. There are grand barbecues, hilarious Texan names (e.g., Switchblade Joe Bonney, Jack-High Abe Bonney, Turkey-Buzzard Tom Bonney, Kettle-Belly Sam Bonney) and some other funny little Texan touches. For example, before they left Earth, the Texans dismantled the Alamo, brought it with them, and rebuilt it.

As with Piper’s story Fuzzy Nation, there is a long court scene that bogs the story down somewhat (I’m not sure what’s up with Piper and the court scenes — he was not a lawyer), and there’s the usual chauvinism you’d expect in a story from the 1950s.

I bought the free Kindle version of Lone Star Planet and added Audible narration for a couple of bucks. Piper’s works are in the public domain, so you can also find a free audiobook copy at Librivox. Harry Shaw does a nice job with the narration of the version I listened to which was only 3.5 hours long.

Published in 1957. New Texas: its citizens figure that name about says it all. The Solar League ambassador to the Lone Star Planet has the unenviable task of convincing New Texans that a s’Srauff attack is imminent, and dangerous. Unfortunately it’s common knowledge that the s’Srauff are evolved from canine ancestors — and not a Texan alive is about to be scared of a talking dog! But unless he can get them to act, and fast, there won’t be a Texan alive, scared or otherwise!

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KAT HOOPER, who started this site in June 2007, earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University (Bloomington) and now teaches and conducts brain research at the University of North Florida. When she reads fiction, she wants to encounter new ideas and lots of imagination. She wants to view the world in a different way. She wants to have her mind blown. She loves beautiful language and has no patience for dull prose, vapid romance, or cheesy dialogue. She prefers complex characterization, intriguing plots, and plenty of action. Favorite authors are Jack Vance, Robin Hobb, Kage Baker, William Gibson, Gene Wolfe, Richard Matheson, and C.S. Lewis.

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3 comments

  1. I love that they brought the Alamo with them!

    With Brexit inspiring some Texans to discuss leaving the United States again, this seems like a timely read.

  2. Yeah, some silly fun.

  3. This definitely sounds like fun. I love the idea of exported supercows!

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