Thriller-writer Coppel's only previous sf appearance was Dark December (1960); this one kicks off a far-future story-cycle about ancient, starships that, impelled to relativistic velocities by faster-than-light tachyon particles striking their solar sails, spend hundreds of years wafting cargo between far-flung colonies. Starship Glory approaches planet Voerster with two problems: a dead crewman who needs burying, and another alive but going insane. Voerster's history, meanwhile, has reached a critical juncture. Settled by unreconstructed Boers, the population was decimated during mindless racial wars with the kaffirs, and technology has regressed to a primitive level. To forestall an invasion by barbarian mutants, brutal ruler Ian Voerster promises his ailing daughter, Broni, in marriage, a move opposed by wife Eliana--though both hope that high-tech medical treatment available aboard Glory will save Broni. When Glory's mad crewman, Marq, touches down, Ian takes him hostage. Eliana and Broni, having fled, are attacked by the mutants. Duncan, Glory's captain, lands nearby, only to be wounded and fall in love with the highly empathic Eliana. Abandoning Marq, Duncan takes Eliana and Broni into space; Broni will join the crew, while Eliana must return to Voerster and orchestrate the revolution thus precipitated. Predictable plotting in a slow-motion narrative insufficiently leavened with ideas, along with Boers who are both unpleasant and uninteresting. A bland and ponderous opener.