Unlike Allan Steele’s Spindrift, Galaxy Blues feels like an actual novel, instead of a jumped up novella, that isn’t to say it’s very long or weighty, but compared to lightweight efforts like Spindrift, it’s a bona fide novel. Some of the best material in Galaxy Blues is in its extended opening that has the main character Lucius Truffaut pulling off a complicated escape plan from the Western Hemisphere Union and onto the Coyote Federation starship in order to try and defect for mysterious reasons. There is actual suspense here and some ingenious moments that fade away once Lucius is captured and we learn that he’s nothing more than a fairly callow ex-ensign who got kicked out of the Union Austronotica for helping his younger brother cheat on an exam (can we get any more juvenile here?) and promptly signs up on board a ship headed to the home of the Talus, the alien intergalactic network, for a trade deal.
With Lucius on Coyote, Galaxy Blues slows down from light speed to the snail’s crawl so typical of Steele novels, and Lucius loses most of his IQ points, wit and planning skills that he showed in the first chapter and begins doing a series of stupid things that comes to define him for the bulk of the novel. The expedition on board the Pride of Cucamonga has such boldly original characters as Morgan Goldberg, an evil greedy Jewish businessman, Ali, a murderous Arab, Doc, a crusty old engineer and the Hjadd representative from a cowardly and manipulative race… then having run low on stereotypes, Allan Steele pads it out with retreads from Spindrift, Captain Harker and Emily. Then there’s Ash, a psychic. Finally he tosses in Rain, who’s set to have the usual Love/Hate relationship with Lucius, that will of course culminate in love.
Allan Steele is often compared to Heinlein, but the thing about Heinlein is that he wasn’t being Heinlein, he was being original. Galaxy Blues, like a lot of Allan Steele is arguably more Pohl than Heinlein, but it’s no less derivative and proceeds much as you would expect. Morgan gnashes his teeth, fumes and greedily lusts after money. Lucius does stupid things and falls for Rain. Rain insults him and falls for him. Captain Harker and Emily mostly stay out of the way. Ash is a mildly entertaining character, but his ability in this hard science context sticks out badly and he’s mainly there to enable the narrative with exposition and deus ex machine answers at key points. The Hjadd who seemed a bit more interesting back in Spindrift meanwhile stand revealed as cowardly manipulative alien cliches right out of the pulp era and the culmination of Galaxy Blues has Lucius delivering the same tired worn out “We won’t bow to you” speech to the alien council that of course implausibly produces a happy ending.