Review: Interstellar Patrol (Interstellar Patrol Book 1 of 2?)

Interstellar Patrol - Christopher Anvil

Interstellar Patrol is an anthology of loosely-related short stories taking place primarily in space or on alien planets.  There isn’t much back story provided but, from a few little snippets, I was able to at least glean that the stories were set around the 2200’s and the characters are humans who either are from Earth or descendants of people from Earth.

In these stories there are a few different organizations.  Interstellar Patrol appears to be the more elite military force that can get things done when nobody else can.  Space Force is the main military-type organization that handles the normal day-to-day stuff, and there’s also a Planetary Development Authority which consists of scientists who are responsible for exploring and colonizing newly discovered planets.  Despite the name of the anthology, several of the stories don't focus on the Interstellar Patrol very much although many of them do.

The stories ranged from dealing with problems on planets, to training new recruits, to dealing with political conflicts between the various organizations.  In the first story, one of the characters invents a “want generator” that can make other people, on a small or large scale, feel different desires depending on how the device is set.  The author sort of lost me at this point, because this amazing device was invented by altering the flow of electrical current in a standard communications device.  And of course this current could be further altered to generate dozens (or more) different and very precise emotions such as “desire to work” and "desire to obey authority", and it could be directed precisely toward specific groups of people.  This was just a little too ridiculous for me to swallow, and the first three stories in the book (about 35% of the book) centered on this theme.  

However, there were some decent themes in the book.  One thing I really liked about those first few stories was how, when the main characters used the want generator on a group of people to try to make them behave a certain way, it never had the intended effect because those people had their own beliefs and goals and world-view so any desires they were forced to have were focused on the things they already cared about.  I thought that aspect of things was very true-to-life because people don’t react to things the same way and it’s unrealistic to expect that they will.  Everybody has different backgrounds, motivations, and experiences that can lead them to see things differently.  Attempting to influence somebody when you haven’t taken the time to understand them can have the exact opposite result that you hoped for.

I also liked the theme, especially through the latter half of the book when we start seeing some technology run amok, about the importance of testing new things thoroughly and implementing mission-critical changes cautiously and in phases.  There was also a slight theme throughout the book of the importance of simply thinking, whether it was thinking about life in general or thinking through how to handle a situation versus just jumping in feet first without planning.

So this anthology wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great.  It had some good messages that I liked, and the stories were mildly entertaining, but they never really held my interest well.  About six months ago, I had read another anthology of stories by Christopher Anvil -- Pandora’s Legions.  I thought that anthology ranged between horribly dull and quite good.  I averaged that out to three stars and decided I would try one of the author’s other anthologies someday.  This anthology, on the other hand, is getting three stars because it holds pretty steady at “average” in terms of my own interest in the stories.  

There’s at least one more book in this series, Interstellar Patrol II: Federation of Humanity.  The afterward by Eric Flint seemed to imply there would be a third anthology, but I didn’t see one when I briefly looked.  I already had a copy of the second book that I had downloaded from the Baen Free Library, but I’ve decided not to read it.