"The Planet Savers"/"The Sword of Aldones" by Marion Zimmer Bradley (1980)
This book is a collection of three stories and the non-fiction "Darkover Retrospective." The earliest of these stories, "The Planet Savers," was written in 1958, and originally published in Amazing Stories. The second story here, "The Waterfall," was written in 1976. The third story, "The Sword of Aldones" was written very early in Marion Zimmer Bradley's career, but was not published until 1962. The autobiographical "Darkover Retrospective," written in 1980, offers Bradley's thoughts on her career and the development of the Darkover series.
The Planet Savers
This is a straightforward adventure piece, centered around a man with dual personalities. A plague is decimating the planet Darkover, and the hero (or rather the hero's alter ego) is called upon to make a long journey. Having read only one of Bradley's stories before, and this from the 50s, this story was well in line with my expectations. It's not a great story, and it's burdened with a terrible title, but it's not bad.
This is a much shorter story. It is so short, in fact, that the plot wouldn't bear too much description or scrutiny here. Suffice to say, it's my favorite story in this collection, and shows a lot more maturity.
The Sword of Aldones
The author herself describes this as a "juvenile" work of fiction. I agree with this statement. Loved by many fans of Zimmer's Darkover books, I found this story not only juvenile, but also melodramatic, confused, and generally pointless.
The Darkover Retrospective
This, I thought, was the most interesting part of this book. In it Bradley discusses her early career as a writer, and reflects on the public response to her works. While I think her books fall firmly into the second, or even third tier of science fiction/fantasy, she has a lot to say about what it meant to be a woman writing sci fi/fantasy in the 50s, 60s, and 70s.
I don't think I'll be reading any more of Marion Zimmer Bradley's books, but this was far from the worst book I've ever read. I'd put her on a par with Anne McCaffrey and Ursula K. LeGuin, two other writers that I'm not overly fond of. All three women were/are competent in their chosen vocation, but all three aren't writing books for people who want to think about what they are reading.
If you enjoy soap operas featuring magic and dragons, if you like less science in your science fiction, you will find yourself well served in the works of Marion Zimmer Bradley. If you are looking for depth, however, look elsewhere.