Star Strider

FF27-Cover
They don’t describe what you look like, but Gromulans and humans both act like you’re human. Maybe it’s normal for humans to get modified into an awesome cat dude? That’d be cool!

YOU become a bounty hunter which gives you some plausibility for being on Earth and snooping around asking questions. But this time you’re not snagging a bail-jumper for a paycheck — the Galactic President has been kidnapped and aliens are burrowing into his brain to get the secrets inside. Totally Ghost In The Shell, eh?

He’s in one of four cities, and you don’t know where. It’s a race against the clock to make his rescue before they get into his brain and it all counts for nothing.

I admit that I don’t quite understand the secrets they’re trying to get at. It’s supposed to be defense codes, so I imagine there’s a war going on. But you’re also a tourist on Gromulan-occupied Earth, so I’m not entirely clear on the nature of the war where they allow tourists.

Anyway, here’s your shuttle ticket to Madrid and an unlimited expense account. You have 48 gravity hours left!

Review and Opinion

Like a lot of FF’s sci-fi themed books, this one was lackluster. It’s halfway through the series (#27) and they had plenty of experience in making good books… but the sci-fi ones just never worked well.

I did win the book in one evening, but only by rolling my eyes and skipping the “roll two dice, if they match your adventure ends here” moments. There are way too many of those! Combined with the sheer number of Test Your Luck moments (three on one page), many of which are insta-death if you’re unlucky, the thing just felt lazy and annoying. Even with a Luck of 12 it would take incredibly fortunate rolls to not fall victim to the many “roll a double and die” situations. It’s a lazy mechanic, and an annoying one, so cut it out! (he says, 29 years after the book was published)

The book also included a new Time mechanic. You have 48 gravity hours left before El Presidente gets hacked anyway. But the usage of this mechanic is entirely arbitrary: it costs 4 time units to ride the Greyhound (sorry, Silverhound!) to Roma, but costs 4 time units to eat dinner and 2 units to read a paragraph of text. Ultimately the time doesn’t really matter though, since you’ll either die randomly or else finish with half of it to spare.

To some degree Star Strider makes up for this poor construction with backstory and atmosphere. The atmosphere feels like “gutter punks in the space age” as we slink into abandoned subways and hang with sewer urchins and ride the bus, and the feeling of being hunted (while in fact being the hunter) was enjoyable here as it is in other FFs. But it was not an epic atmosphere like a few I’ve played lately such as Slaves of the Abyss or Revenge of the Vampire; it’s not even as varied as Rebel Planet was.

But, to end on a positive note, the book did have multiple paths. The clues are in multiple locations and have multiple paths to them. Both Madrid and Roma have multiple places to get clues and multiple ways to get to those places. And you could even get to the dungeon and find El Presidente Galactico without any of those clues, if you’re really super fortunate.

Maps

FF27-Map1 FF27-Map2A FF27-Map3 FF27-Map2B

Publication

Robert Barr

1987

Book 27 in the series

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