Space Viking (1977)

H. Beam Piper’s Space Viking — this is the 1977 Ace edition, fronted by a typically fantastic Michael Whelan painting.

Gotta admit, when I first picked this up, it was as a joke because the title struck me as fairly hilarious. However, it is actually extremely good! The title sets expectations — the novel is a sprawling interplanetary science fiction yarn concerning war, politics, murder and revenge that maps broadly to the action of Viking saga. It is a very different sort of book, really, but I think it kind of rhymes with Poul Anderson’s Broken Sword in a funny kind of way?

I also didn’t know it at the time, but the novel is also a huge, direct influence on Traveller. It takes place among the Sword Worlds, each named for a famous sword from Earth’s legends. There is a ship named Beowulf. There’s a strangely feudal empire, though it is rapidly decaying and falling into disarray (anticipating the Imperium’s shattering in MegaTraveller and its ruin in New Era, and the emergence of…Star Vikings).

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