Panglor [Star Rigger Book 1]
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by Jeffrey A. Carver
Category: Science Fiction
Description: In this prequel to Jeffrey A. Carver's Star Rigger Universe, we find Panglor Balef, space pilot, on the edge of sanity. Forced to embark upon a hopeless mission, the life-weary pilot suddenly finds himself in the depths of space--in a place that seems beyond reality. Is this the horrifying end of his journey? Or could it be a window to a new and incredible path of discovery? Panglor must fight for his life to find answers?
eBook Publisher: E-Reads, 2004
eBookwise Release Date: November 2004
28 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [382 KB]
Reading time: 220-308 min.
"An original and very charming novel, with a particularly unusual protagonist." --PUBLISHERS WEEKLY
Introduction to the New Edition
This book is a modest revision of a novel that was first published in 1980. In certain ways, Panglor is the foundational novel of my Star Rigger Universe. It's not the first book that I wrote in that future history, but it's the one that sets the stage for all the others (Dragons in the Stars, Dragon Rigger, Star Rigger's Way, Eternity's End, and Seas of Ernathe--in chronological order within the future history).
This is the story of how it all came to happen: how starfarers first learned to navigate the streams of space among the stars--the Flux, that strange realm where intuition and imagination, meshed with the objective topographies of spacetime, create fantastic images through which pilots can navigate their ships. The adventures of pilot Panglor Balef provide the first glimpse of the Flux, without actually naming it.
Panglor had been out of print since shortly after its publication in 1980. It was first published by Dell Books, just prior to Dell's closing down of its science fiction line. It appeared without promotion, with a dreadful cover, and sank like a stone. I was delighted to see it return to print with a Tor edition in 1996. To celebrate the occasion, I did some editing on the prose that I might have done in 1979, if I'd had the skill then. James Frenkel, the book's original editor and its Tor editor as well, assisted me with the job.
It was a curious experience, looking back on work first done sixteen years earlier. These days, it's not that uncommon for a writer to dust off an early work, and to revise and expand and generally recraft a new novel out of old cloth. I did not do that. I liked the story I'd told and had little further to add to it; but it was clear that it could be made a better book with a little help from a more experienced hand.
I suppose any author mutters quietly to him- or herself, looking back on earlier work--especially work done in the formative years, when the craft and narrative voice were just emerging. In my case, the muttering is often but not always critical; sometimes it's astonishment at a line or paragraph that seems to sparkle with unexpected originality. Once, when perusing a book of mine after a long absence, I was particularly startled by one scene--a scene I had no memory of having written. Suddenly, paranoiacally suspicious that a fast one had been pulled on me, I dug into my files, found the original manuscript, and checked to see if someone else had snuck in those sentences. No one had but me; such is the ephemeral nature of memory.
In rereading Panglor, I found an energy and exuberance that I didn't want to lose. I also found some pretty clunky prose and painfully awkward bits of characterization. And so, vorpal red pencil in hand (no word processor for this one), I set out to snip back the thickets of purple prose here, to straighten the garbled sentences there, to stamp out the redundancies everywhere--and in general, to provide a better read without needlessly altering the book that a promising younger writer had created.
That's what I tried to do, anyway, and I hope I succeeded.
I had a good time rereading the book while I was at it. I hope you enjoy it, too.
For more information on my books, stories, and other matters science-fictional, visit my website at www.starrigger.net/ or my blog at starrigger.blogspot.com/.
Jeffrey A. Carver
* * * *
Panglor is pronounced PANG-lor,
ou-ralot is pronounced OOH-ruh-lot,
Alo is pronounced AY-lo.
* * * *
Any moment, Panglor Balef knew, it could be over. His mouth felt gritty, and his stomach hurt. If the goddess of fate smiled upon him, he would soon see the star. But if her smile turned malicious...
There was nothing to do but wait. He glared at the instruments, which told him nothing. The sequencer chuckled annoyingly. He sat forward and cursed savagely: "Whore!" Then he sat back. "Ah--" he grumbled. His voice was not as acid as he'd hoped. Two weeks in this ship, and his curses were losing their bite. That worried him: loss of the cutting edge, failure of cynicism. He was tired.
"You aren't worth the bile eating my gut," he told the ship, and it was nearly true. This ship, The Fighting Cur, had once been a stout freighter, but it had lived its years. Still, it was a spaceship and the only thing standing between him and the vacuum of space. He had other worries caged in his thoughts at the moment, such as whether he would survive foreshortening. "Talk, sweethearts," he pleaded of the instruments.
Fear gnawed at him. "LePiep!" he barked. There was a scuffling noise behind him, and the ou-ralot poked her head up beside the center instrument display. Panglor glared at her. "Trying to toss me out, hang me on," he gargled. The ou-ralot looked at him perplexedly. A prairie dog-sized animal, she had soft, tufted fur and round eyes. Her wings were concealed in the fur on her back, but her bushy tail twitched nervously. "Dope," Panglor said, in a sudden swelling of affection.
The ou-ralot was smart and empathic, better company than a human; but certain things were beyond her understanding. One of them was the incredible nervous strain of foreshortening, of flight between the stars. There was nothing a pilot could do while in foreshortening; the cards had already been played, in the instant of the ship's insertion into foreshortening, through the collapsing-field near the star of origin. The joker was that not all ships that entered foreshortening came out at the other end. Where the losers emerged, or if they emerged anywhere at all, was one of the unanswered questions of star travel. The statistical chances of failure were small but well established, and there was no known way to improve them.
As he often did, Panglor considered where his ship might emerge if the uncertainties went against him. His mind filled with images: Misty wastes, veils of darkness closing around The Fighting Cur, sealing it forever from the view of stars, planets, or any references at all of the known universe; an infinity of darkness and emptiness, beyond space and time. Limbo. Or ... adrift among the stars, the ship speeding at a sublight snail's pace in the vast interstellar reaches, prematurely emerged from foreshortening and doomed to spend eternity coasting, missing its target by billions of miles, centuries late, its pilot long since dead.
It was the emptiness behind the uncertainty that terrified Panglor. He didn't want to end his days alone, in some nether realm of emptiness, in limbo.
He glanced at LePiep. "Over here," he said, whacking the cushion beside him. The ou-ralot sprang up and settled in the seat. "Good," he said. The control bay was still. The bridge of The Fighting Cur was a shallow, curved section bending back on both sides to the exit passages. The compartment was gloomy, the sensor-fringe viewscreen in the front wall lit dimly by the midnight-blue glow of foreshortening.
Panglor felt twinges in his chest, a hint of hysteria. He rubbed his forehead and then his temples, fingering several days' grease and sweat.
The emergence light clicked on, amber.
Lying thief, you taunt me! he accused silently, his blood rising. But he swung to look into the binocular scoopscope. The image he saw in the scope was a gray background with two clusters of white pointillist dots, swarming crazily. The clusters existed only on two specific planes, which danced toward convergence. Murdering mothers! he thought. His eyes ached. The dots swam. They fell into a three-dimensional contour, an obliquely aligned cone.
A muted tone sounded from the console. Beside him LePiep panted raspily in echo of his own excitement. He held his breath, banished his demons...
He felt a tremor in his gut and his groin and his ears, and the ship dropped out of foreshortening. The viewscreen darkened completely and filled with stars. He blinked at the star pattern, then switched to a stern view.
There it was, an aurora-red glow, hanging in space and retreating like a debtor. It was the capture-field that had snared him from foreshortening. He cackled, shaking a fist in triumph. "We beat it!" LePiep squirmed madly beside him. "Peep!" he cried, ruffling her fur. "We're there. You can relax." He touched the ou-ralot under the chin. After a moment she stopped squirming and stared at him with wide, wet eyes.
He had made it through. He was free.
Free to see human beings again. Free to continue his job and his life.
Free. For all the good it would do him.
But, whatever else--the danger of disaster in foreshortening was behind him.