A. E. van Vogt spins a great space opera in this short (157) page volume. Mission to the Stars–as it was later known–was originally published under the name The Mixed Men.
Here is a brief plot summary: Lady Gloria Laurr, Grand Captain of the Earth Space ship Star Cluster, is sent to investigate the renegade civilization (called the Fifty Suns) of Dellians, non-Dellians, and Mixed Men in the Greater Magellanic Cloud. The Mixed Men are second class citizens in the Fifty Suns civilization and have to weigh the benefits and disadvantages of declaring the presence of their culture to the Earth vessel. Maltby, the hereditary leader of the superhuman Mixed Men and also an officer in the Fifty Suns space fleet is confronted with a series of moral choices. I will not give away anymore of the plot but it involves a “forced” (in an interesting way) romantic element.
A. E. van Vogt writes with admirable prose for the time (especially the introductory chapter). I was also very impressed with his use of female characters – most importantly the Lady Gloria Laurr.
Albeit, the two main characters, Gloria and Maltby aren’t particularly well rounded but then again rarely do we find well rounded characters in space opera of this time.
Also, the uniqueness of Gloria’s position as a strong female character in sci-fi of the time is reduced substantially by the end – i.e. Vogt eventually describes her as a “career woman” who “needs a husband”. That said the far future technology is fantastic, the plot moves quickly (a little too quickly in some places to the detriment of interesting detail and depth), the dialogue is almost always pretty weak, and sadly Vogt skimps on many interesting battle scenes involving the powerful Earth ship Star Cluster. All in all, this was a quick, fun, light, and interesting read.