James Nicoll Reviews

Home > Blog > Post

Introducing Leigh Brackett’s Solar System

2 Apr, 2015


Support me with a Patreon monthly subscription!

Brackett was one of the few women who were high-profile science fiction writers back in the 1940s. She started writing for the detective pulps before turning to the sort of planetary romance seen in Planet Stories. She was never as narrowly focused as some of her contemporaries. I suspect that most people who know her name now know her from her work on screenplays like The Big Sleep (1946), Rio Bravo (1959) and The Long Goodbye (1973) or possibly because of her connection to an obscure cult classic, The Empire Strikes Back (1980).

Brackett created her own setting for her planetary romances and if it didn’t have much to do with the Solar System as it was understood by astronomers [1] in the 1940s and 1950s, Brackett’s Solar System was at least self-consistent. Mostly.

I was commissioned to review at least one Brackett novel, with the proviso that it be one with which I was previously unfamiliar. Since I got to choose the novel, I checked the Baen Books ebook site to see what they had on offer. The selection was pretty good but what caught my eye was an omnibus of Brackett’s Solar System planetary romances. For just $20, I could get a bundle that included Mercury’s Light, The Swamps of Venus, Sea-Kings of Mars, Shadow Over Mars, Martian Quest, Beyond Mars, and Alpha Centauri or Die. How could I resist?

Having bought the bundle of books, how could I review just one and not the others? So for the next little while, every Thursday will have a review of one volume from Brackett’s Solar System omnibus. 

Either I must become less obsessive or I must somehow gain access to more days in the week [2].

1: Brackett was definitely influenced by Edgar Rice Burroughs but there are details in her world-building that make me wonder if she was a fan of the late Stanley G. Weinbaum.

2: My editor suggests adopting the French Revolutionary Calendar, which features ten-day weeks [ link ].