Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Eric Frank Russell's "The Star Watchers" aka "Sentinels from Space" aka "Sentinels of Space" (novel, free): Humanity's guardian angels get involved in its petty troubles

An illustration accompanying the original publication in Startling Stories magazine of novel The Star Watchers by Eric Frank Russell
While the story is generally quite readable as an adventure involving political intrigue, it's unusual for a Russell story in that it includes pretty much every known genre trope: telepathy, teleporting, mutants, pyrotics (ability to physically burn someone by thought!), body snatchers, shape shifters, energy beings, bug-talkers, levitators, aliens, Martians & Venusians, ... you name it. It's as if author wanted to dedicate it to the wide-eyed fan happy with funny sounded names.

I like to be surprised by a story's twists, but this one uses magic rather than logic for this.

Story summary.

It's a complex story with a lot of threads, but the main plot involves David Raven, an alien disguised as human. He's one of the two guardian angels on earth of unnamed god-like energy beings, primarily to guard against possible interference in human development by Denebs, another advanced alien race.

But much of the story involves only humanity. Human colonies on Mars & Venus want freedom Earth is denying them; so they've started a sabotage campaign on earth. Earth cannot stop them from coming in, or it will have to recognize them as non-citizens!

David will unofficially help the government put out the rebellion.


  1. "All wars go on for too long".
  2. On governmental secrecy: "What constitutes legitimate news was decided by the type of mind that insists that matters of major public interest must not be divulged in the public interest."
  3. "the most effective technique is not to fight a thing but set its own parts fighting one another."
  4. "The public will swallow anything providing it appears to bear the seal of official approval & is sufficiently long sustained & plays upon their fears".

Fact sheet.

First published: Startling Stories, November 1951.
Download full text as part of the scans of the magazine it originally appeared in.
Rating: B.
This story was later expanded into the novel "Sentinels from Space" (1953), also sometimes titled "Sentinels of Space".
Related: Stories of Eric Frank Russell (annotated & ranked list).