In distant parts of a far away galaxy, Robert Underwood brings to life a cast of star-fighting warriors, galactic royalty, super-human androids and good old-fashioned suspense in his novelette titled, The Hunt for the Shalimar Stones.
The Shalimar Stones are symbols of the peace between two warring factions of the people of Alon, a part of the Bavarian colonies ruled by the Warlean who inhabited this system before the colonists settled. As a symbol of the end to years of war, each side gave the other eight precious stones, one stone for each planet in their system, and if ever the stones were lost or stolen then there would be a dreadful war once again. When trickery allowed for the stones to be stolen, the daughter of the ruler, Princess Diana called upon Captain Morgan Stone to find the missing Shalimar Stone. Committed to bring the thief to justice and return them within 72 hours, Morgan set out to preserve the peace in this part of the galaxy. Armed with a battle section of Star-Carriers, Captain Stone embarked upon a mission to find the missing stones at all cost, or die trying.
Robert Underwood makes no attempt to claim originality to the myriad of plot machinations, foundation of inter-galactic life forms co-existing around the universe, nor the fundamental technologies so often portrayed in the Star Trek series or Star Wars movies. What he does achieve, relying on the reader's assumptive experience with these concepts, is he brought forth a new and exciting mini-plot, suitable for a movie or TV episode. From the beginning, he structured the cast into military categorizations of troops, platoons, and combat units; each with an identifiable command and control structure. The chapters play out like scenes in a movie with uniquely clever battle sequences, allowing the reader to imagine the dark, deep space backdrop behind the glistening energy forces of technological space ships zapping and exploding in the vast void of surrounding space. One technology I found interesting was a form of holographic cloaking device. Instead of making the star-ship invisible, it rendered it as a space rock, hardly unique and ubiquitous for any strategic interest of a predatory search and destroy mission underway.
One further mention needs to be made of the "Tiffany girls." These three android "drop-dead gorgeous women," with sculptured bodies and immense innate beauty, capable of seducing any male military personnel into being "off guard" by having their instinctual attraction submissive to the Tiffany's suggestive advances, plays a role in overpowering the guards of the stolen Shalimar Stones. I found this to be interesting in the sense that given all the advances in technology, it's still the male pheromones which lead to the downfall of civilizations.
The Hunt for the Shalimar Stones is written for a young adult audience. It is clear and crisp with action, explanatory with the military backbone of command, and possesses the damsel in distress and gentleman Samaritan to her rescue; classic to the prince and princess theme throughout adolescent literature. For those who love "things that go zap in space," this novelette offers a nice ride through the vacuum of space into the hearts of chivalry. We certainly hope Robert Underwood continues on developing his Captain Morgan Stone character and carries him once again into the deep regions of far away galaxies to bring his moral fortitude to distant life forms surrounding us in this busy universe.