Wednesday, January 29, 2020

More Traveller Literary Inspiration - Treasure on Thunder Moon

Treasure on Thunder Moon
By Edmond Hamilton
Published in Amazing Stories, 16 #2, April 1942
This world is a Red Zone. Literally.
I’ve read and posted about other works by Edmond Hamilton (here and here). Once again I find his work to be a breezy and enjoyable read, if one doesn’t peer too closely at the ‘science’ underneath.

Treasure on Thunder Moon is the most Traveller pulp sci-fi novel I have read to date. Let me count the ways this sounds familiar . . .

The main character is John North (a reference to Northwest Smith?), a 37 year old retired Space Officer. He’s currently out of a job and looking for work. His gang of friends is in the same boat – they’re all too old to work for the Company that monopolizes space travel. They’re living at the scraping-by level in one of Earth’s starport towns hoping to get lucky.

North, Peters, Steenie, Dorak, Hansen, Connor, Whitey. We have our crew of PC veterans. These guys are not in their 60’s and 70’s, but in their 30’s & 40’s.

Starport, check. Looking for Patrons? Check. Long-term subsistence? Check.

The luck arrives in the form of a young woman who happens to be the daughter of an old pal of theirs. She wants their help, to crew a ship. Her destination is Oberon, one of the four moons of Uranus. The plan is collect a treasure that her father discovered but couldn’t recover.

Now we’ve got a Patron, and a Rumor.

The treasure, by the way, is a unique mineral. Levium has contra-gravity properties, so it is very valuable. it is also a Macguffin.

Then they have a run-in with reps from the Company who deny the girl’s claim to the ship she says belongs to her. (Legal encounter?) North and the guys plan a Caper to steal the ship and make a run for the treasure. The ship is an old decommissioned “12-man long distance cruiser” on its way to the scrap yard.

The Caper is a success, and they’re on their way to Uranus. The Company’s agents are not far behind, though.
Original Illustration from Amazing Stories

Along the way they perform a burial in space, as Peters meets his death in the takeoff. I noted with satisfaction that it was, in form, a Christian burial. 

 “. . . until such day as the last summons shall call from space its dead.”

They make it to Uranus and land on Titania, one of her moons. Titania is a jungle planet with a small frontier starport (Class D, I’d say) and a rough-and-tumble startown.

On Titania, North goes to a local tavern/nightclub to meet with a local shady businessman. He has some specialty gear they’ll need. (See below)While there North meets Nova Smith, a saloon showgirl. She ends up tagging along too. Random encounter? Check. The Company man they dealt with on Earth appears again too. He invites himself along for the expedition. NPC Henchman? Check.

To the surprise of no-one but North and his mates, the shady businessman decides to cut himself in on the deal. He hijacks the ship and takes the Patron hostage. More of North’s crew get dead. They make it to Oberon. North displays his Piloting skill by landing on the volcanically active surface, amid lightning storms and super-heated updrafts.

Also the original illustration from Amazing Stories
They have to trek Across the Bright Face to reach the location of the treasure. Along the way the local wildlife, a sort of hellhounds called Fieries, attack. Animal Encounter? Check.

The rest of the story is full of gambits, ploys, discoveries, complications, dangers, reversals and last-minute rescues. The rescue came from a character I didn’t expect, but that made it all the more satisfying.

I enjoyed this story. Despite many of the story beats being predictable, Hamilton still surprised me. North and company are sympathetic protagonists. There is friendship, gentlemanly behavior and heroic sacrifice. The villain of the piece gets a suitable comeuppance, and the good guys win.

Also, his astronomy was accurate for the time. Oberon is actually quite cold, rather than hot, but Hamilton couldn’t know that. Astronomers found the fifth moon, Miranda, in 1948. Now there are 26 moons identified.

Am I right? Does this sound like a Traveller adventure, or not? What is your "most Traveller story"?

Equipment Inventory: Anti-heat gear
This device is an add-on to the vacc suit’s array of gear. It creates “a blue nimbus of heat neutralizing force” that surrounds the wearer from head to toe. It is capable of repelling temperatures up to 650 Fahrenheit.
Weight: 2kg        TL: 9         Cr1500
Little specific information is given about the anti-heat gear in the story. I assume the temperature limit because they wear lead overshoes to weigh themselves down in Oberon’s light gravity. Lead melts at 621 Fahrenheit. The lead shoes are not said to have melted. Either that or Hamilton forgot about that part.

Image credit: Lava planet from Pixabay
Fieries: Amazing Stories
Takeoff: Amazing Stories


  1. To me, the most Traveller stories are those that are either based on Traveller directly, which currently encompasses Firefly/Serenity, the Concordat novels of Jefferson Swycaffer, and the Chuck Gannon, Marc Miller, etc. novels that bear the actual trademark, or else those which Traveller was directly based on. The latter include the Dumarest novels of E.C. Tubb, which definitely show where the general rhythm of play of "arrive on a planet, find a patron who sends you on an adventure that pays for passage to the next planet" comes from, and perhaps Space Viking and related stories from H. Beam Piper, which illustrate what a "feudal technocracy" is, seem to describe the model for the Type C Mercenary Cruiser, and seem to be the source of several other elements.

  2. Thanks to your reviews, Mr, Weaver, I have been a a pulp magazine reading binge for the last six months or so. That's yet another thing I need to thank you for!