Space Viking

Space Viking

Infobox Book
name = Space Viking
title_orig =
translator =

image_caption = 1980s reprint cover
author = H. Beam Piper
illustrator =
cover_artist = Michael Whelan
country = United States
language = English
series =
genre = Science fiction novel
publisher = Ace Books
release_date = 1963
media_type = Print (Paperback)
pages =
isbn = ISBN 0-441-77784-8
preceded_by =
followed_by =

"Space Viking" is a science fiction novel written by H. Beam Piper and is set in his Terro-Human future history. It tells the story of one man's search for his wife's murderer and its unexpected consequences. The story was originally serialized in "Analog" magazine (November 1962 – February 1963), then published by Ace Books in 1963.


Ten thousand refugees from the losing side of The Big War (The System States War of "The Cosmic Computer") fled far beyond the boundaries of the Terran Federation and colonized the planet Excalibur. By the beginning of "Space Viking", they had expanded to a handful of Sword Worlds (so-called because they are named after legendary swords) and had grown to a total population of three and a half billion, organized in a feudal system of kingdoms, duchies, and other small states, ruled by frequently-warring noblemen. Despite their isolation and the political instability, the inhabitants managed to retain a high level of technology, including space flight.

One day, a starship rediscovered the Old Federation. Civilization had collapsed, presumably due to the war; many of the planets had regressed to varying stages of semi-barbarism. Taking advantage of the situation, "Space Vikings" (reminiscent of Norse vikings) proceeded to raid the poorly defended Federation worlds over the next three hundred years for loot.

Plot summary

On the Sword World Gram, Lucas Trask, Baron of Traskon, is about to marry Elaine Karvall, whose father owns the Karvall steel mills. In addition to being a political alliance, it is also a love match. But Andray Dunnan, the insane nephew of Duke Angus of Wardshaven, is under the delusion that Elaine loves him and is being forced into the marriage. When she tries to correct him, his anger boils over. He crashes the wedding ceremony, kills her and seriously wounds Trask, before stealing the Duke's newly-built starship, the "Enterprise", and escaping.

When Trask recovers from his injuries, he pledges his realm to Duke Angus in return for another warship, the twin to the one taken by Dunnan. He hires Otto Harkaman, an experienced Space Viking captain who had lost his own ship in a civil war on Durendal, to run the new vessel, which Trask christens the "Nemesis". Trask sets out in search of Dunnan, though Harkaman warns him that his goal is nearly hopeless, given the vastness of the galaxy.

They first visit Tanith, a primitive planet Duke Angus had planned to turn into a raiding and repair base. They find two run-down Space Viking ships already in possession, the "Lamia" and the "Space Scourge". Trask decides to implement the Duke's original plan, taking in the other two crews as very junior partners. The natives begin receiving better treatment at his hands and training in the use of modern technology.

After some refitting, the "Nemesis" and the "Space Scourge" raid three planets, Khepera, Amaterasu and Beowulf. The loot Trask sends to Gram excites interest (and greed). Duke Angus uses the incentive of shares in the Tanith venture to gain supporters and assumes control of Gram. He promotes himself to king and names Trask his viceroy on Tanith. Ambitious men begin emigrating to Trask's new realm.

Beowulf is the most advanced of the raided worlds, lacking only interstellar space flight. Puzzled, Trask investigates and finds out that it has no gadolinium, an essential element for hyperdrive engines, but does have plutonium. Coincidentally, Amaterasu has sizable deposits of gadolinium, but lacks plutonium. Trask seizes the opportunity to set up profitable, peaceful trade between the three planets. In the process, he gradually gains two allies.

Meanwhile, ships that put into Tanith for trade and repairs occasionally bring news of sightings of Dunnan. From what he learns, Trask wonders if his enemy is plotting to conquer the civilized world of Marduk, a feat thought impossible — just the thing a megalomaniac like Dunnan would attempt.

He visits two Mardukan colonies, only to find that Dunnan had recently attacked them. At the third, he comes upon the "Enterprise" and another ship locked in combat with a Mardukan vessel. He jumps into the fray and destroys both enemy ships, though he remains unsure if Dunnan was killed. The Mardukan ship, under the command of Prince Simon Bentrik, is too badly damaged to travel, so Trask takes the crew back to Marduk.

Trask becomes friends with the Mardukan royalty, but is contemptuous of their shaky democracy. It appears that a fanatical rabble-rouser named Zaspar Makann is poised to win the next election. But that is not Trask's concern, so he returns to Tanith.

Back on Gram, King Angus has been abusing his power, straining relations with the other powerful nobles and also with Trask. Finally, Trask declares his independence. Later, word reaches him that civil war has erupted. Many of Trask's followers urge him to claim the throne himself, but he is not interested. Gram, along with the other Sword Worlds, is in decline; Tanith is the future, the core around which civilization might possibly reform. To distract his divided subordinates, he fabricates a more immediate threat, claiming (without any proof) that Dunnan is responsible for the unrest on Marduk.

His big lie turns out to be the truth. Not winning a majority in the election, Makann attempts a coup. Prince Bentrik shows up on Tanith as a refugee, bringing two pieces of news: fighting has broken out on Marduk and, more importantly, Andray Dunnan is the power behind Makann.

Trask assembles a fleet and speeds to Marduk for the final showdown. A fierce space battle ensues, won by Trask. Then, loyal ground forces root out the remaining traitors. Some of the last holdouts surrender, handing over Dunnan in return for their lives. When the maniac raves that Elaine is waiting for him back on Gram, Trask shoots him.

External links

* [ Full text of the magazine version of "Space Viking"] at Project Gutenberg.
* [ Lengthy commentary/analysis by Joseph T. Major on "Space Viking".]

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