The idea of a lone man standing against the forces of the galaxy is certainly not a new concept in science fiction. Some of the most memorable stories in the genre have explored the theme. Leinster, himself, employed it in another of his novels, The Pirates of Ersatz. What makes Talents, Incorporated interesting and so much fun is how Leinster’s hero, the intrepid Captain Bors, defeat the galaxy conquering Mekinese.
Individuals with special powers were also not a new concept when the novel was written. Super strength, telepathy, telekinesis, X-ray vision, these and many more skills have populated science fiction from the beginning. But the employees of Talents, Incorporated are no super heros. Instead, they are normal, or in some cases, not quite normal, individuals, each of whom has a single talent. Some of the talents, such as the ability to guess when a spaceship might break out of overdrive, would have obvious application to fighting an interstellar war. Others, well it might not be so obvious. For example the paranoid who was thrown in jail because he kept warning the police about when crimes were going to be committed so often that they thought he must have inside knowledge. Such individuals, quite naturally, would tend to be misfits.
Leinster’s genius is to take this motley collection of misfits with random talents and make us believe that they can take on the battle fleets of the Mekinese. The combination of the intrepid hero, single handedly waging war against an empire with only a random assortment of oddly talented individuals at his back makes for a rollicking space opera that turns conventions on their heads.
Murray Leinster was a writer with a long career that stretched beyond the very beginnings of science fiction into the modern age. He wrote a number of classic stories during that career, and some that unfortunately are now forgotten. Talents, Incorporated is a novel that deserves a wider readership if for no other reason than the sheer fun of it. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.