Tuesday, April 16, 2013

BUCK ROGERS (1979) Tie-In Paperbacks

Today we have the covers of the two authorized Buck Rogers In The 25th Century paperback tie-in novels, published in 1979. Written by Richard Lupoff under the pseudonym "Addison Steele," these books are, frankly, awful. The first book is a novelization of the TV pilot/theatrical film script by Glen Larson & Leslie Stevens, and appears to be based on an early draft, as there are a number of differences between the book and movie.

I've read some fine nonfiction books by Lupoff (his Edgar Rice Burroughs: Master of Adventure is essential reading) but his prose here is awkward, clunky and amateurish. That said, I do like the cover painting, even though it looks like the Gil Gerard likeness was painted by a different artist, and I wish the starfighter wasn't obscured by the logo.

Buck Rogers: That Man On Beta is based on an unfilmed script or treatment by Bob Shayne, and is even worse. The characterizations are all off, the world portrayed in the book only vaguely resembles the world established on the show, and the writing style is, once again, a struggle to get through. The cover art has a nice, pulpy, space opera feel to it... doesn't look anything like Gil here, though.

Even though I coveted these books back in the day, I only managed to get my hands on them in the past year or so. While I'm glad to have them in my collection, I'm equally glad that I didn't pay too much for them.


  1. Regarding the usage of an early script draft for the novelization of the pilot, I recall that this same issue plagued the Gold Key/Whitman comic book. It was even explained in a rare letters page. So the comic book was never totally consistent with the TV show.

    I didn't even know these existed until now. I think I know why.

  2. I have these... I agree the first one's most interesting aspects are the many differences between it and the actual film.
    I always find it interesting when novelizations are based on earlier drafts of screenplays.

  3. And don't forget the alternate cover for the first book. This is the one I have...

    1. The white cover is the Dell edition, and the one pictured in the post is the Sphere (UK) edition.

      There were often minor (or major) cover variations between the international editions of novelizations.

  4. Wow, I haven't seen Buck Rogers in forever.

  5. I've had both of these since grade school and remember reading and enjoying them many, many times as I was growing up. That said, I haven't opened either in decades, so I doubt I'd have the same experience with them now that I did as a ten-year-old.

  6. I've had these for a while; the film adaptation was okay. I think I got 40 pages in "Beta." It was Awful.

  7. I get the feeling the best thing about these books are probably the fantastic cover art. The film adaptation might be descent, and perhaps interesting if it came from an early script.

  8. Both of these were apparently written before actual production began, according to the publishing dates. The second was likely a proposed story for one the planned TV movies, before the network decided to make Buck a regular weekly series.

  9. Yee
    I have these books, as mentioned above, the cover art is pretty interesting. Unfortunately in the days these were printed, credit was rarely give to artists on the cover, and I cannot see any signiture. Which brings me to my question... does anyone know who the artist is? As for the story/writing inside, I agree that they are awful, especially number 2 ("Beta" indeed even the name is an obvious reference.) What gets me most is the lack of logic or even a semblance of rationality on the part of any of the characters. At times it reads like a really bad Romance novel. Ugh!! Anyway, perhaps you can fill in the details of the artists name if you find out who he or indeed she could be.

  10. As curiosity pieces (based on early concepts, etc) I think the two books have value. Back in the day the idea of reading "new" adventures based on TV shows was still a novelty to me so of course I hate both books up. As I recall, for some reason I never got hold of Beta until sometime after the series ended, so faults aside I appreciated having another chance to visit the characters.