One Book, Four Covers: Star Rider by Doris Piserchia
I’d never heard of Doris Piserchia until two months ago when someone on a webforum mentioned how great her books were, so I downloaded the Gateway reprints to my kindle.
And let me just say right now that you should too.
Piserchia’s style is hard to pin down – someone said she’s a bit like Philip K. Dick, but it’s the PKD of Clans of the Alphane Moons rather than, say, A Scanner Darkly. The writers she reminds me more of are the later Alice (post-Tiptree) Shelton and Clifford Simak (whose also a bit like PKD). Pischeria shares the same weird exuberance that just dives into a story, no matter how outwardly crazy, and runs with it. Case in point, Star Rider.
In the future mankind has spread throughout the galaxy by means of genetic modification that allows us to leap between worlds as long as we’re telepathically bonded to mounts which are like these space-dog-horses. Those that travel are known as Jaks, those that settle are called Dreens, and off on the sidelines are Vthe arks, which are a bit like the Cheshire Cat from Alice in Wonderland – if the cat were made from pneumatic tubing. Everyone’s searching for the planet Doubleluck, and later this becomes a search for a method to hop across the galaxies, an act no ones been able to pull off without going mad. Into this situation comes Jade, a young Jak, who might or might not have the ability to make the leap, and it’s that mystery that makes the plot-shenanigans ensue.
The thing I like about the covers are how they all treat the mounts differently while still oscillating between the poles of dog and horse. The annoying thing is how most of them dress Jade in varying shades of chainmail bikini. The exception is the non-English book, which is my favorite of the four. It would certainly have been the version I’d have read if I was a German hippy in 1974.
Anyway, buy the reprints and start here or with A Billion Days of Earth, because that one has intelligent rats with metal hands that think they’re humans.