The Sun Smasher / Starhaven (Classic Ace Double D-351)
STARHAVEN is Silverberg’s only novel under the Jorgenson name, originally published by Thomas Bouregy in 1958 and reprinted a year later by Ace as the other half of Edmond Hamilton’s THE SUN SMASHER, which I wrote about a couple of weeks ago. It’s the story of Johnny Mantell, a beachcomber and bum on the resort planet Mulciber, who has to flee from his peaceful existence because he’s unjustly accused of murder. He steals a spaceship and heads for Starhaven, a giant metal-enclosed sanctuary world where criminals of all sorts, even murderers, can find, well, haven. Naturally enough, on a world populated by criminals there aren’t any laws, so Johnny may have his work cut out just surviving on Starhaven.
Once he gets there, however, he finds himself taken under the wing of the benevolent dictator who runs the place. Unfortunately, he also finds himself attracted to the dictator’s beautiful girlfriend, and then there’s this sinister conspiracy in which he gets involved . . .
This is a pretty simple plot and could probably work as a straight crime novel or a Western with a few changes. But then about halfway through, Silverberg pulls a nice SF-nal twist. It doesn’t come as a big shocker, but it’s still effective, and there’s another good twist later on. And of course, being Silverberg’s work, the prose is very smooth and readable.
I’m going by memory here, but it seems to me that “Ivar Jorgenson” started out as a personal pseudonym for Paul W. Fairman but eventually became a house-name used in the Ziff-Davis science fiction magazines edited by Fairman, as well as a few other places. STARHAVEN may well be an expansion of one of Silverberg’s yarns for the SF digests; I haven’t been able to find out about that. I believe it’s gone unreprinted since this Ace edition.
I’m one of those oddballs who likes Silverberg’s early novels as well or better than his later ones, but that’s because I prefer my science fiction more action-oriented. STARHAVEN is an entertaining yarn, and taken in tandem with THE SUN SMASHER, they make this one of the better Ace SF Doubles I’ve read.