It should be no surprise to anyone that Dave Duncan is one of my favorite fantasy authors. As an SF writer, though, it’s been more of a mixed bag. Some of his early works like Shadow or West of January are of that Pern-style SF-tinged fantasy, and have the virtues of his fantasies. But he wrote a straight-SF book called Hero!, which I read back in middle school, and I really really hated it. Enough so that I actually doubted for a long time that it was the same Dave Duncan who wrote those excellent fantasies.
So when I picked up Dave Duncan’s Wildcatter, my expectations were tempered more than a bit. And from that position, they were exceeded.
This turns out to be a story about space prospectors, who go out and explore new planets in search interesting biologicals. A crew sets out on the long journey for one particular hit, and… well, is it a spoiler to say that when they get there, they find danger and mystery and all the stuff you’d expect to find in a story? Because spoiler alert: They do. From the premise, this actually reads a lot like that Niven and Benford book, except that it manages to have a whole complete plot in a single book, which is a huge plus.
This isn’t a mind-blowing book that’s going to redefine the genre or anything, but it’s a light, pleasant read. Breezily recommended.