Rork! (1965)
by Avram Davidson

I've had countless conversations with La Fée about cutting down on his thrift store and flea market visits, but it appears that my pleas have gone unheeded. How else to explain the appearance of this gem on my doorstep, with its gloriously dated cover art and fifty cent purchase price?

The cover declares that Rork! is "A Science Fiction Novel." Indeed it is, I suppose, but not like any such novel you'd read today. No transporters or phasers or lightsabers or Wookiees, just a vague notion that interstellar travel was possible, and life on other planets a subsequent discovery.

Davidson doesn't spend much time establishing a backstory or a mythology, he just establishes a few plot points and builds around them. There is never a date mentioned, and only a few mentions of "Old Earth" to indicate that this even takes place in our universe at all.

The style of the writing is pretty much what you'd expect from a science fiction writer of the 1960s. It doesn't read very easily to a "modern" eye, but it's not nearly as thick as Tolkien or Arthur C. Clarke, nor as ambitious. Davidson wraps this story up neatly in 144 pages. Tolkien couldn't have Frodo wipe his ass in less than thirty. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

The basis of the story has a man named Ran Lomar – who works for an organization only identified as The Guild – sent to a distant planet to find out why the production of a plant called redwing has dwindled to near nothing. Once there, he has to deal with the apathy of the crew of the Guild Station, and the laziness and alcoholism of the native people known as Tocks. No, they don't run casinos.

The Tocks' laziness and penchant for long drawn-out drunks are only two of the reasons Ran finds for the decline in redwing production, however. Periodic outbreaks of Tock Fever either kill or incapacitate large numbers of Tocks, and the all-consuming fear of the menacing Rork is another.

Eventually Ran sets off into the land of the Rorks, he ventures to the camp of the Wild Tocks, where he hears of a plan to attack the guild, he discovers the source of Tock Fever, and he comes face to face with a Rork and dispels the myth of the evil man-eating Rork once and for all.

Davidson manages to tell quite a story in just a few pages, and with surprising panache. About fifteen pages into the book, I had written it off as, if I remember my discussion with La Fée correctly, a "tedious piece of shit." In the end, however, the book ended up being fairly enjoyable, if only because it didn't get bogged down in minutiae. Other authors could easily have padded this into 400 pages or more, and depending on the skill of the author, the book could have been better or worse for it. In the end, this was a decent little story.

This ends this review, the first in a series. To follow-up will be Roarke!, a biography of Ricardo Montalban; Rourke!, an unauthorized biography of Mickey Rourke; and Bork! Bork! Bork!, a scathing biography of the Swedish Chef.

Review by Mario Speedwagon