Space Gamble Volume 1: Perils
by J. W. Delorie
Westwood Books Publishing

"'Whoever designed this intruder is a master of his trade...'"

The year 2111 finds humanity colonizing Mars and Neptune while maintaining a presence on Earth. The race still has not overcome such character flaws as greed or lust. Casino magnate Kennith Jackson Furgis takes full advantage of these hedonistic weaknesses to open the luxury gambling resort Neptune One. The equally luxurious cruise spaceship the Jupiter Queen transports vacationers from other planets to partake of Neptune One's decadence. Success has its cost, however, and Operator Furgis, as he is known, has ambitious competitors. There's an unknown adversary labeled "The Tamperer" who is bent on corrupting all the resort's high-tech systems with a virus. Simultaneously, there's the mysterious middle-aged casino patron everyone simply calls "The Gambler." No one knows whether he means to help or harm. Does he have any connection to The Tamperer?

Into this intrigue, fresh off the interplanetary glide tube from Mars, steps Sam, Operator Furgis' untried seventeen-year-old son. He's here to learn the business he'll someday inherit from his father, whom he hasn't seen in five years. His mother, Raynor, is not enthusiastic for him to learn the business of vice. His parents agree that he will not be allowed to place bets on his visit. But Sam, flouting his father's orders, enters 3-D World, which includes a casino where wagering is compulsory. With a careless word, he accidentally places an exorbitant bet he can never repay. When he does lose, his father's loyal employee risks his life to cancel the debt. To make amends, Sam joins a crew of scientists trying to discover the identity of The Tamperer. When an attack destroys the shuttle, Sam must consciously decide whether he will accept his resulting permanently disfiguring injury.

This first installment of Delorie's Space Gamble series begins with the popular science fiction trope of habitation by humans on planets besides Earth. It portrays Earth as an antiquated place whose countries are now consolidated into the Eastern and Western Empires. In an intriguing twist, all people older than forty were born on Earth and migrated to other planets. Sam was born on Mars, but thanks to efforts by his mother, he can travel to Earth if he wishes, although he never has. Another interesting feature of the author's futuristic society is that almost all communication and interaction are virtual, carried out by either vid com or ear com. Real food comes from Earth and is expensive because it is only available on the black market; everything else edible is synthetic. Fights between remotely operated machines armored to protect those at the controls have replaced such contact sports as boxing, a situation reminiscent of the future sporting world portrayed in the 2011 film Real Steel.

Unlike much of modern science fiction with its more atheistic bent, the author's universe recognizes the significance of faith in its characters. For example, those of Operator Furgis' generation continue to worship the Judeo-Christian God and battle such familiar addictions as gambling and alcoholism. Nor does the futuristic setting diminish the relatability of conflict between members of the same family. Delorie here combines his love of science fiction with his previous experience as a Nevada casino operator. Three more Space Gamble books follow this one, which should encourage those who enjoy this one.

Return to USR Home