Back when I was in the Air Force, I found a book in the base book store by a guy of the name of “Dray Prescott”. The book was titled “Beasts of Antares.” Dray Prescott was actually the protagonist, the story was told first person, “As Told To” Alan Burt Akers who I much later learned was a pseudonym for the late Kenneth Bulmer.
I suppose it wasn’t “great literature” but it was fun, it had a moral hero whose primary motivation was devotion to his family (he gets thrown about the world by forces beyond his control and given tasks to complete–and complete them he does since that’s the only way he’s allowed to return back to wife and family), an effort to end slavery on his adopted world, and unite the “civilized” portion of the world to prepare to stave off a potentially civilization-destroying invasion that’s on the way.
Dray was a sailor from late 18th Century Earth, transported to the world of Kregan, around the double star system of Antares making this a tale in the “sword and planet” mold pioneered by Edgar Rice Burroughs and others.
Dray gets caught in a complicated rivalry between two forces, both nominally forces for “good”, the Savanti (humans with some advanced capabilities mixed with sword-swinging adventures) and the Everoinye or “Star Lords” who are something else.
That the “diffs” that populate Kregen are often little more than humans with an animal head or an extra pair of arms and given to being little more than “racial stereotypes” might make purists cringe. Still, when Bulmer pulled one of the various “diffs” out of the background and made them a character of significance the main characters often learned that there was more to them than just the stereotype of their race, which might itself be considered a statement against racism.
Although the science is dubious at best, with birds and related animals large enough to carry humans in flight and mixes of minerals that can be used to create anti-gravity airships, other aspects of the story show a remarkable degree of research and thought.
Beasts of Antares, my first exposure to the series, was the 23rd of 38 books that were originally released in the US. (Books originally released in Germany carried the series to 52 volumes by the time of Mr. Bulmer’s death in 2005 at age 84.) I bought every book from #23 through to the end as published in the US and, a few years ago, made a point of completing my collection with the US released versions. I learned at the time that a web site had been releasing ebooks of the later volumes in English but it has since gone defunct.
Eventually, the series was made available in its entirety as a series of omnibus e-editions which I have purchased from Amazon and, yes, find it as enjoyable as I did 38 years ago. The late Mr. Bulmer did not complete the last cycle and so the titular hero is left hanging in the middle of an adventure. There exists a short fragment of what was to be a 53rd book but…well, we will never know what Mr. Bulmer would have done with the characters and settings had he survived to write more.
So lift a glass in honor of Dray Prescott, possibly the last of the great Planetary Romances, and the last great Sword and Planet hero, from a time when fiction was fun.