Transit to Scorpio
A review by Steve "Seg" Servello

Spoiler Warning: Contains story details

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Transit to Scorpio

I have read the first 51 pages of "Transit to Scorpio" and already feel compelled to report some observations. First-off, I decided to go with the Tim Kirk illustrated version, but with the author listed as Prescot on the spine. Inside on the title page, Alan Burt Akers (not to be confused with James Bert Akers), is listed as the author. I see that this is also true of "Fliers of Antares". In my collection, it is not until "A Life for Kregen", that "by Dray Prescot as told to Alan Burt Akers" is listed there.

The cover Art on "Transit" by Tim Kirk is my personal favorite in the saga. What a magnificent Rapa!  The interior art is not nearly as effective as the cover. The scorpion looks good as it is uncluttered. Not so true of Aphrasoe and the charging Clansmen. The illustrations of the Chulik and Zenicce are extremely well done and have effectively captured the essence of their respective scenes. On second thought, the interior was not so bad after all. It's just that the Rapa is so damn well drawn!

During the introduction we see that Dray Prescot records his story on cassette for Dan Fraser, who gives them to Geoffrey Dean, who brings them to Alan Burt Akers for publication. On page 9 Akers talks of omitting much (customs and traditions) from the tale. I wonder why he took that upon himself, even if acting in the role of editor. He (Akers) says the last tape ends in mid-sentence. Off the top of my head, I don't know in which book the "tapes from Africa end. Never mind, I just checked and they end on page 46 of "Swordships of Scorpio". Prescot wants these tapes published in the hope that "anyone who may be able to shed some light on their extraordinary contents will come forward" (page 9). Does he refer to agents of the Savanti, Everoinye, or Others ?

As I began to read "Transit to Scorpio", it became clear to me that while Kregen clearly molded Prescot in numerous ways, so much of the man he is was evident during his initial years on Earth. One of Dray's philosophical views is that "creatures (human or animal), act according to their lights or nature". He continues this thread with " it is not in MY nature to let anyone or anything best me without a struggle. I allow it is in your (giant scorpion) nature to kill me, therefore you must allow it in mine to prevent you. And if necessary, to kill you to protect myself" (page 24). His initial comment on lights and natures was a comment on the savages about to torture him, in Africa (page 18).

On Earth we are aware of Prescot's hatred (page 27) of fish (and later, the Shanks), his exceptional broad shoulders, and the fact that "he and death had become a companion all too familiar" (page 28). Dray's unwillingness to give up against insurmountable odds (shipwreck and savages) is also readily apparent on Earth. His antipathy to slavery is slightly suspect when he mentions being"tempted by the Triangle Trade" (pages 16 & 17). True, he never did participate, but to be even tempted ...

Prescot's love of steeds (thanks to his father), will stand him in good stead among the Clansmen of Segethes in particular, and in Paz in general. While on Earth Prescot feels that the star Antares "seemed to glow down with a force and fire of hypnotic power" (page 15). Of course and naturally, Scorpio is his sign.

As I said, Dray is naturally under the sign of Scorpio and it is a scorpion that kills his father and indirectly, his mother. So what would be more natural than for him to face a giant of that species on his advent to Kregen ? The fact that the one that killed his father was from India, comes into play later in the saga ...

The question as to the reality of that scorpion is never answered in a satisfactory fashion. There is no scent, it disappears more rapidly than it should when it flings itself off the leaf raft, it is not a blow up of an Earthly variety (internal skeleton and such), and while Maspero assures Prescot that the giant scorpion was indeed real, he has his doubts and voices them occasionally in future books.

Upon his "transit", Dray finds himself adrift on the River Aph. For some reason I am minded of Gully's travels on Mars.I also realized for the first time, that the scorpion through itself off the leaf-raft as Prescot advanced on it. I had always thought he heaved it overboard. Well, I guess that's one of the benefits to re-reads. In one of the few times that I favor Barsoom over Kregen, the means of getting to Mars seemed much better written that Dray's to Kregen. The manner of John Carter's breaking his Earthly bounds was an incredible feat of writing. As I said, one of the few times ... On the Aph, Prescot is naked and weaponless (as he will find himself again and again). "He would have suspected weakness" otherwise. How often he expounds that feeling ! The air of Kregen is fresh and sweet. He thinks that every time he returns there, from Earth.

And just how do the Savanti know of Earth (and other inhabited planets) ? That they do is noted on pages 20 & 45. I realize their advanced state of development, but still ... Also, how old are the Savanti as a race and individually ? With a thousand years per baptism in the Pool of Vanti, well you do the math. I wonder how their age compares with the Star Lords ?

Possible mistake on top of page 50. The term "calling coup" is used. Should it "counting coup" ? Isn't that when the Plain Indians got close enough to touch (but not kill) their foe ?

We meet Dray's first Kregan, Maspero. He says he is called "The Tutor", not "a tutor". Does that put him one step above the other tutors ? And he calls Prescot Dray, without first becoming his friend. And Dray allows it !

A pill that affects ones genetic make-up allows Prescot to understand the languages of Paz and Schan. However, Maspero mentions there is universal language of Kregan (Kregish), but in fact, it is the language of Paz only.

Fliers (vollers) are first mentioned on page 50, used to remove captured graints from the environs of Aphrasoe to beyond the mountain passes. We see the River Zelph and it's color is plum. This is the river which rises from the Pool of Vanti where Dray is baptized and thought by all present, to surely be a chosen one. Why him more than the other candidates ? His new appearance is said to indicate this.

The first mention of paper mills and the mystery of the distribution of it's paper starts on page 46. Prescot dwells on this for a long time. Speaking of the Pool of Vanti, that is Prescot's first time underground on Kregen. But not the last (see "Fortune" and "Mazes" in particular.

The emissaries of the Savanti and Everoinye are seen throughout the book ( dove and large bird of prey). The exact nature of this bird is unknown. This raptor, eagle, or hawk is of no Earthly species. And how did the Star Lords know enough to monitor (via raptor) the River Aph, for Prescot ?

Another future thing that is commented frequently on is the lack of smiling by Prescot and his love of the yellow cherry-like fruit, palines.

Page 51 shows the voller that the maimed and blindfolded Delia is in, crashing near Aphrasoe.and Dray leaping to defend her from a charging graint. Accompanying here are 4 dead scarlet-roped Todalpheme. Can anyone offer a good reason on how they died ? Or why ? This is one mystery that sticks in my craw!

Delia lands in Ba-Domek, near the city of Aphrasoe, much to the disturbance of the Savanti. Though a princess of a powerful nation (Vallia), Delia was not "called". She didn't fit into the plans of the savants of Aphrasoe. While not said specifically, I believe that Ba-Domek (see "Savage Scorpio") must be one of the 9 Islands of Kregen. Mehtza is definitely one. That leaves 7 ... and they must be at least the size of Australia (page 149). I guess that Vallia and Pandahem qualify.There are seven continents of which I know the following : Segesthes, Turismond, Havilfar, Loh, and Gah (in Schan). The configuration of the groupings in Schan is unknown, but there must be two more continents there. The city of Marlimor is mentioned on page 58, but I don't recall ever seeing it on any maps or mentioned again. Another geographic comment regards spices from Askinard (page 82). Again, where is that ? While the population of Aphrasoe is not stated, Prescot does say that there numbers are pitifully few (page 59). I wonder if their advanced technology could hold off a massive Shank invasion ? And there are 7 moons of which the largest is "The Maid With the Many Smiles" and the closer ones have appreciable motion (page 136).

Some other "firsts" (as there must be, in the first book of a series) are : diffs (beastmen) Fristles, Ochs, Rapas, and Chuliks. We even see the first Rapa get his beak shorn off (I always felt bad for them when battling Prescot). The threat of being thrown nude into the Rapa court is used. We never hear of a Fristle or Kataki court. That is a very erotic vision of Delia, being used and passed around by Rapas. I'm glad it never actually happened ! Though one must wonder how she manages to evade rape even when captured numerous times by lusty rogues. She has been fondled ...

Other firsts : graints, leems, zorcas, voves (and half-voves), non-usage of shields, scarlet breechcloth (page 143), and vollers (airboat or flier). Dray rides in one for the first time (page 143), on his way to rescue Delia in Zenicce. Plus the great term "rast ! ". Ranks right up with "yetch ! ".

Realizing that the Savanti would probably not cure Delia's deformity (caused by a fall from a zorca, which her father then killed), Prescot takes it upon himself to do so. His testing (mental), had not been going well also. He knew he was in love with Delia. Her outrageous auburn tints, full lips, and the fact that she is often nude, are all valid reasons for dray's malady <G>. He even leaped 10 feat in the air to defend her from the savage attack of a graint. Ten feet ! Think about that. During and shortly after his exploits in her defense, Delia 3 times calls out "jikai" to Dray, with 3 different meanings : warrior, kill, and great deed. Curiously, this word does not register with him, even after swallowing the genetic altering pill that allows Dray to understand all the languages of Kregen.

First "remberee" on page 53. "Happy swinging" had been learned first. In Aphrasoe, Dray never got to learn the true "mission" of the Savanti (involving apims and diffs), but does learn somewhat of the Star Lord or Everoinye (page 57). The raptor or Gdoinye is the messenger and spy of these powerful beings. I wonder how the Savanti know of them (they do). Delia sees both the Savanti dove and the Gdoinye. Curious, not many do ...

I had not realized that Prescot actually worked in the paper mills of Aphrasoe (page 56). Considering his interest in the "mystery" of the distribution of Savanti paper, I'm surprised he doesn't dwell more on that topic. I'm curious as to how far afield this paper does travel.

More firsts mentioned in "Transit to Scorpio" : The baths of nine (which Dray entered before his first audience with Princess Natema and Delia's she-ling pelt, obtained for her by Prescot on the plains of Segesthes (page 151).

I was surprised that Maspero was not suspicious of Dray's intentions, when he took Delia for a row and picnic. Instead he made for the River Zelpph and the Pool of Vanti. Then came his first banishment from Kregen. I wonder how the second baptism for Prescot affected him, aside from the obvious immediate feelings. Perhaps he was the only man to bathe in those milky waters more than once per thousand years. At any rate, on page 62 Prescot calls Delia just that, Delia. Not of Delphond or the Blue Mountains. She accepts this after initial anger.

And what is the creature Vanti ? How old is it and how did it gain it's mysterious powers ? Did the primitive Savanti discover it when they retreated from Paz to Ba-Domek, and thus rename themselves ?

So Dray is banished from paradise, Aphrasoe and has never returned (as of # 41). He did of course return to the source of the River Zelph, but not the Swinging City itself.While on Earth, Prescot obtains a pet scorpion, in the hopes that it might help form a psychic link with the powers that be, on Kregen. It is the Star Lords that retrieve him from exile and bring him back to Kregen, to do their bidding.Despite several years on Earth, it is only moments to Delia since they were separated by Vanti. Now I know Dray was rightfully sent home to Earth, but why wasn't Delia sent packing to Delphond ? Instead she is being chased (naked again), by Fristles on the plains of Segesthes. Again, the Everoinye utilize a time warp when they meet again in Zenicce.

The supposedly mythological diff, "Talu" is mentioned on page 115. Dray says mythological "as I then thought". After 41 books we still haven't seen one of these 8 armed diffs. The terms apims and diffs are not in use yet. So the Rapas shriek "human" perish and "human" offal.

The word "blagskite" is used on page 86 and I couldn't find it in my dictionary. It is obviously not a term of endearment and was used during the initial meeting (not audience) between Natema and Prescot.

Back to Princess Natema. I guess her thighs were a fraction heavy, an infinitesimal fraction too thick, for Dray's taste. Those sound like my kind of thighs . I'll take Prescot's throw-aways, any day ! Her father is the current Kodifex of Zenicce, or Emperor (page 112). I disagree with that comparison. One city (several enclaves), does not an empire make. Since The Houses are ruled by Princes or Lords, I allow that the Kodifex could be construed as a king, but not an emperor.

I was personally fascinated by the 3 rings Natema wears (page 104). The precious stones were ruby, emerald, and sapphire, all among my favorites. Prescot uses a Tarl Cabot-like phrase to Natema, after she has him beaten, during the course of her attempted seduction " You would make an interesting slave" (page 116). While rescuing the naughty princess from the doomed slave revolt, Dray whispers " Nijni will not be pleased" (page 123). "You idiot" she retorts when Dray explains about the soiled gloves. This was perhaps the funniest moment in the book. It certainly struck my funnybone.

After his abortive rescue attempt of Delia from the Fristles, Dray meets Hap Loder and takes "obi" from him, ultimately becoming the Vovedeer and Zorcander of the clans Felschraung and Longuelm. The former title denotes the leader of two tribes of Clansmen, the latter, 3 or more (which do come, thanks to Hap Loder). During his 5 year reign, Prescot believes Delia dead, as the Fristle party was wiped out. This sort of despair occurs again in "Warrior of Scorpio" and reading of it is such a downer. While on the plains, in addition to Hap Loder, Dray's right hand men are : Jiktar Rov Kovno, Jiktar Ark Atvar and Loku. All are instrumental in the ensuing escape from Zenicce and in holding Prescot's power for him during his absences. In addition, I was surprised when Hap greeted Dray with "lahal" instead of "llahal" (page 70). It was their first meeting and were about to do battle. Of course Nath the Thief (page 93) helps in the escape (of the Clansmen) and becomes an honorary member.

I was a bit surprised when Delia fled from Prescot after they initially meet in Zenicce. I know he looked a popinjay, but still ... I did like the term "aureoled her hair" on page 114. It conjured up certain images ... After the escape from the enclave of House Esztercari with Delia and Gloag, they make their way to the arch foe of that House, Eward. They meet Wanek, it's Lord . His wife is never named but it is she who first mentions "Strombor", the old House.

It appears that Gloag is a diff as he is "scarcely human" (page 108). The race of Mehtzas is rather confusing in this regard. There were 2 others with Gloag, but they perished in the slave revolt.

Prescot shows an affinity for scarlet even before Great-Aunt Shusha appoints him as Lord of Strombor. They had met (page 154) when Dray saved her and Prince Varden, from enemy clansmen. When Delia makes her entrance (to the saved caravan), it is spectacular ! I can just imagine the white ling furs swinging in time to her lithe body and her long lissome legs. Shortly thereafter, Prescot asks his usual question and Great-Aunt Shusha says she has heard of The Savanti and their city of Aphrasoe, but can't remember when, it was so deep in her past. To the best of my knowledge, this thread is never continued. Drat !

Delia mentions that airboats (vollers) are not manufactured in her land and thus we know she is not from Havilfar. The seeds of the cycle of the same name are laid here. It is not until the end that Delia reveals that Delphond is an estate willed to her by her grandmother and that likewise, the Blue Mountains are in the Island Empire of Vallia. I wonder if the lords of Zennice are aware that vollers are manufactured in the subcontinent of Balintol, to the south ?

Some more Kregan firsts : A "bur" which equals 40 minutes, the "bokkertu" or legal arrangement, usually for a wedding, Vallia itself (page 174), dopa (fierce alcoholic beverage) and Dray's refusal to apologize, except to Delia (page 162). I'm not so sure this is a good thing. I consider it a character flaw.

Lastly, the mention of "pack mastadons" (page 167). I don't remember ever seeing these creatures again. Does anyone else ?

The mystery of Savanti paper distribution is addressed again (pages 167 & 168). Part of it is, how does the paper leave Ba-Domek and arrive in Port Pauros by (whose) ships. I don't think this thread is ever resolved.

I double checked the definition of "Vovedeer" and it means ruling 4 or more clans. His clansmen are definitely taking liberty in calling him that. It isn't until Dray's 13 year banishment on Earth that Hap Loder takes obi from a third tribe. Still one short.

I learned yet another word from Ken, and this one was in my dictionary. It is "anodyne", a soothing agent. I'm sure most of you knew that, but I did not.

I find it almost too convenient that when the House of Strombor fell, it's survivors made way to Valka (not yet specified) and to the clan of Felschraung (pages 158 & 172). Naturally, those are 2 areas of Prescot's power (or will be).

While guests of Wenek in the House Eward, Dray and Delia peruse a globe of Kregen (page 159), and it shows Schan, even if vaguely. I'd be curious to know where the knowledge as to the continental configurations came from. Some very brave explorers indeed ! And Delia teaches Prescot to fly then too (page 159). She is a superb pilot if not a warrior, yet.

I think it significant that the caravan master, Xoltemb of Xuntal, sees the Gdoinye (page 169). Usuallo, only those favored of the Star Lords do so. Yet, I don't think this worthy ever reappears in the saga.

I am a little confused by the "porcelain jug" scene (pages 127, 172 and 179). I don't recall Prescot putting the sword inside it at all. It must have happened "offstage".

One of the most chilling scenes is when Princess Natema, naked and in chains, realizes her fate. The Ewards have destroyed the House of Esztercari and all she knew of. Personally I can't envision what that must feel like (particularly from a woman's viewpoint, to be naked and helpless in front of hundreds of your foes). She finally loses it (thanks to the cruelty of Prescot) and screams (page 181). I can actually feel as well as hear it. I suppose Dray wanted her to be fully grateful to Varden when he eventually makes his move, and that she lose her feeling of superiority totally, before finally regaining her life and dignity with Varden. The manner in which her sobs of despair subside with the attentions of Varden, warmed my heart which had just been wretched by her scream.

After this victory, Dray is made the Lord of Strombor (what exact rank of nobility or royalty is that ? Lord Farris too). It looks like Great-Aunt Shusha and Gloag will rule in Prescot's absence. After the Ewards and allies ( the Houses of Reinman & Wicken) break up the wedding of Delia to Prince Pracek of Ponthieu. There, in the stronghold of his enemies, Prescot claims Delia as his own and wedding plans are made. Alas, the Everoinye see fit to send Dray back to Earth. But he would return, he would return, to his Delia of the Blue Mountains ...

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