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Marc Miller's Traveller: Gateway to the Stars
Pierce Askegren
Pocket Books/Byron Preiss, 327 pages

Art: Chris Foss
Gateway to the Stars
Marc Miller
Marc Miller helped develop MegaTraveller, MegaTraveller II, and Twilight: 2000 (all from Paragon/Microprose) and on Challenge of the Five Realms (also from Paragon/ Microprose) by writing the basic story and following the programming continuity. He started in gaming in 1967 at college working on political science role-playing and simulation games at the University of Illinois. After a stint in the Army, he was a partner in the establishment of SimRAD, a project at Illinois State University dedicated to producing educational simulations for classroom use. In 1973, he and his partners began Game Designers' Workshop.

ISFDB Bibliography: Pierce Askegren
Imperium Games
The Traveller Webring
Traveller News Service
Traveller Index

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Alexander von Thorn

At a remote starport on the edge of the Imperium, a man wearing the face of another repossesses an unremarkable starship. The ship is noteworthy only in that it is heading offworld, attracting an assortment of motley rogues as crew and passengers desperate to get offworld. The new ship-owner finds unexpected debts attached to the ship, and to the face he wears. But with help from an unexpected ally, he is able to liftoff and head for civilization. Little does he realize that he brings with him more problems than the few dozen megacredits of debt he leaves behind.

One of the things I really liked about Gateway to the Stars is the viewpoint character, Navis Redling, even though that's just an identity he purchased on the last world he was on. He behaves with a sense of ethics, never starting trouble, protecting his associates from unjust harm. But when he does move, he does so with ruthless efficiency, and with a set of skills well outside those a law-abiding citizen would have. He nearly kills a corrupt factor, then offers to carry cargo for the same factor after the initial difficulty is resolved. On the next planet, he rescues a crewman from the consequences of the man's own gambling addiction. The dichotomous nature of the protagonist intrigues the reader, who can never quite trust "Redling's" motives. This is underlined by the echo of a personality of the real Redling, whose memories were purchased by the nameless protagonist in a murky transaction at a rehab colony; this shadow-Redling complains in the back of the mind at lost opportunities and unwarranted risks.

The story is a bit too internal, with character background done as exposition. This becomes a problem later in the book, as characters have multi-page flashbacks that are too descriptive. Some of this would have worked better as action sequences earlier in the story. The ending is a bit rushed, as loose ends are hastily drawn together. On the other hand, the author has a knack for technobabble, describing the science fiction underpinnings of this universe with economy and clarity. Although this story is a gaming novel based on the universe of Mark Miller's Traveller®, the details are described in a clear way without relying on knowledge of the game. In fact most of the technical details are unique to the story, not the game. The story structure appears at first to be a fairly stock ship-of-rogues setting, but it turns out that the nature and assortment of characters is not random at all.

The story becomes more complex as it goes on. One of "Redling's" passengers is an influential non-human who is able to wave his way through bureaucratic formalities. Redling rescues Ku-Ril-La, a winged reptilian, from a band of human supremacists, and from there gets drawn into a complex hidden conflict between species about the future of interstellar civilization. At the beginning of the tale, Redling appears to be a masterful adventurer, able to talk, buy, or fight his way out of any difficulty. By the end of the book, though, for all his skills, he seems to be the last person to know what is really going on around him, and he chooses sides for reasons as unlikely as personal honor and friendship.

The book advertises an "all-new Traveller® module by Marc Miller!" But this is just a précis of the old Traveller game system with no actual adventure. The book is the first of a series, for the conflict between the allies and enemies of humanity only begins here. Gateway to the Stars is a very fast read, pulling the reader from crisis to crisis and world to world. I would really like to see more books in this series. Unfortunately, the series was cancelled by Pocket Books upon the collapse of Imperium Games, publishers of the Traveller role-playing game. Interest in the Traveller universe remains strong, however, as evidenced by the success of GURPS Traveller from Steve Jackson Games, so perhaps these stories will find a new publisher and we'll see more of the mysterious Navis Redling.

Copyright © 1998 by Alexander von Thorn

Alexander von Thorn works two jobs, at The Worldhouse (Toronto's oldest game store) and in the network control centre of UUNET Canada. In his spare time, he is active in several fan and community organizations, including the 'Toronto in 2003' Worldcon bid. He is also a game designer, novelist-in-training (with the Ink*Specs, the Downsview speculative fiction writing circle), feeder of one dog and two cats, and avid watcher of bad television. He rarely sleeps.

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