You are devoured by Space Weed. The End.
An observatory has detected a signal from the Third Planet alluded to in the title that while it remains undecipherable at the present it also clearly suggests intelligence trying to contact us. If this really happened, of course, it would be suppressed and ignored for "our safety" and to "prevent panic" and that would be the end of it. In the future presented in T.P.f.A. a spaceship is sent to go check out this mysterious message and guess what, I made the cut. Joining me are the three people huddled together on the right side of the cover: big-chinned Action Man Bud Stanton, Brainy Girl Nera Vivaldi and pathetic Einstein-wannabe Henry Pickens.
Stanton promptly proves why he's the right man to lead this expedition by becoming "rigid" and not in the good way. Instead it's paralysis caused by an "antimatter storm" which sounds pretty bad but is apparently the rough equivalent of bad turbulence in a plane or driving on a Wisconsin road on the first warm day after the winter season. Still, I decide to change course just to be safe.
If this lasts longer than four hours get to a doctor.
We get out of the storm, but the problems are just beginning. The Captain has now apparently been possessed by an alien parasite and is ordering us to go to some other planet in a creepy monotone voice that suggests either outside control or giving an undergraduate lecture. They really need to do a better job of screening these guys. We're barely out of the solar system and this guy already suffered undignified full-body stiffness and now alien possession. It's clearly time for a regime change on this ship.
Stanton proves no more competent when under the manipulation of unknown intelligences, quickly surrendering to my "mini laser" and allowing himself to be locked up. A little while later he's all "I'm fine now!" Yeah, I've seen the movie "Alien," dude. You're staying in there.
This apparently deals with the former captain and his major malfunction/lack of parental attention as a child but almost immediately some new "It's full of stars!" bullshit unfolds when we hit a "Time Warp Disruption" and are pinballed across space and time, leaving us hopelessly lost. Pickens wants to activate one of those patented sci-fi "whatever devices" that apparently exist only to solve the very specific problem currently being faced. He also admits there's a better than average chance activating this thing will end in disaster, because we have to try to wring some drama out of the "instant fix button" plot. I decide against it and stay in the new time, whenever it is.
Against all odds, we reach Altair and its Third Planet. However the other planets are now gone and the star itself has "lost a lot of mass." Meanwhile the solar system is full of dangerous "anti matter." Can we just get on to me laughing bitterly at my crew putting up a tiny American flag over the captain's grave and then explaining to them that everyone they care about is long, long dead, along with the earth itself in all likelihood. Yeah, let me do that.
Instead someone or something shoots a "missile" at us, I destroy it by having a seizure on the buttons and then we grimly look at each other and realize "there is no hope." Yay?
There's also no hope for my "dirty south" demo tape.
This one wasn't bad. There was a lot going on, not much padding and enough science fiction weirdness to get the job done. The ending didn't make much sense, but you can't have everything. This is a solid early entry. Speaking of which, I've now reviewed every single digit book in this series which feels like a considerable achievement until you look at how many remain and how many of those are almost certainly going to be extremely painful to read through.
But hey, maybe "SuperBike" will turn out to be an amazing forgotten classic. You can't rule it out!
It's a bike. It's super. Are you not entertained!?!