The Right to Arm Bears by Gordon Dickson (and Ben Bova)
Book Report by Vincent
I realize that you’re too stunned to even read the rest of this report. You might just be questioning your sanity. Are you really seeing a grizzly bear in military fatigues holding a machine gun on the cover of this book? I can’t vouch for your sanity, but yes that is what you’re seeing. I was just as stunned as you are right now, so I knew I had to read this puppy. I was excited to find out just who these bears were, who they were fighting, and how many of their enemies they shot or blew up.
It didn’t take me long to realize I’d been suckered. There are no gun wielding bears in this book. Wait! Before you smash your monitor in anger at this injustice, I’ll explain why it wasn’t the biggest disappointment my life except for that time I didn’t sleep with my ex-girlfriend’s best friend (what was I thinking!?). First though, I have to explain that the book isn’t actually a novel. It’s two novellas and one short story. All three stories take place on Dilbia, a planet that is populated by bear-like aliens. The biggest differences between the Dilbians and regular bears is that they walk on two feet, talk, and have a civilized, yet fairly primitive culture.
The first two novellas are written by Gordon Dickson. The last story is handled by Ben Bova who does a great job at keeping the same tone and plot style of the first two stories. The first story, “Spacial Delivery” begins when John Tardy arrives on Dilbia after having been drafted to help solve a sticky situation. One of the Dilbians named Streamside Terror has kidnapped a human female liaison. It’s up to John to get her. What he doesn’t realize is that there’s a lot more to the situation than he realizes and he has to do a lot of thinking if he’s going to get out of it. FYI: It didn’t take me long to figure out that the bears weren’t ever going to be armed. When you’re almost immediately told that Dilbian culture is A. primitive and B. looks down on the use of weapons, you pretty much know you’re getting boned out of the book being like the cover.
To say that these stories are great is an understatement. What makes this book so amazing is not a Rambo-like sci-fi action adventure (like I’d hoped), but instead it’s a really fun series of adventures involving a well thought out and intreguing alien culture that’s really quite amusing. The humor in The Right to Arm Bears is ingenious is that it’s not full of straight out jokes, rather it’s the cultural differences between humans and Dilbians that leads to comical and life threatening results. I’d almost go as far as saying as that you don’t have to like sci-fi to enjoy these stories. Go out, get this book, and be happy. Just try to ignore the fact you won’t get any bears busting out guns.