by Gordon R. Dickson

Gordon R. Dickson wrote SPACEPAW back in 1969. I read the book shortly after it was released and again about twenty years ago. Unlike most of the books I’ve owned, I can’t seem to misplace this one. It popped up in my mind when I was considering novels for this segment. I found it after not even seeing the cover for a decade or more, and began to read. It is dated, I’m afraid. More contemporary science fiction has passed it by. After the first dozen paragraphs, I decided it was not worthy to be presented here, and put it away. After an hour or so of the characters in this novel crawling around in my brain, I decided I was being a snob. I hate that, and I love this book.

SPACEPAW is not a long novel, not a sweeping epic, not a tome for the ages, and certainly not “literary”. It is, however, fun. It wraps around the brain’s taste buds like chocolate syrup sprinkled with popcorn. Simultaneously tasty, smooth, and crunchy, largely because of Dickson’s joyous characters - aliens that I can best describe as a blend of Bigfoots and grizzly bears.

Our hero, Bill Waltham, is dispatched to the planet Dilbia to participate in Operation Hands Across the Stars, or Spacepaw as the locals call it, in an effort to win the hearts and minds of the Dilbians by instructing them on rudimentary agriculteral skills. The Dilbians seem hostile toward interfering humans, and Bill discovers he has been abandoned without his promised support and must deal with the situation as best he can.

With names like Bone Breaker, More Jam, Thing-or-Two, Flat Fingers, and Perfectly Delightful, Dickson’s cast of characters is meticulously drawn, trememdously appealing, and wonderfully earthy. The dialogue is full of giggles, the scenes are truly funny, and this happy book will carry you along with Bill in a saddle on the Hillbluffer’s back, as you learn of the battle between Half-Pint-Posted and the Streamside Terror and wonder how you’re going to make it out alive.

SPACEPAW by Gordon R. Dickson is a hoot.

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