This sci fi novella can be easily obtained on Project Gutenberg. I like to read random sci fi stuff that gets released on there and this novella is my latest jump into the unknown of the golden age of Sci Fi (as some call it). Haven’t heard about neither of the authors. But I should have. Ben Bova had a very long and impressive career. The man has been writing for over 60 years (guess living from 1935 to 2020 has its perks). He wrote over 150 works, which like two or three per year of his active writing career. He also won not 1, nor 2 but 6, SIX Nebula Awards!!! Very accomplished and hard-working guy, need to read more about him, as well as from him.
Myron R. Lewis is a totally different story. This is only one of two available works by this person, if they exist at all. Nothing can be found, so maybe it was a onetime pseudonym by some other person Bova liked to collaborate. The second story is called “Men of Good Will” also co-authored with Ben Bova.
Quick side note, there are both a novel and a novella by this name. This is a recap/review or whatever you want to call it, of the novella.
Onto the story.
The crux of the novella is the impending clash between two Galactic Empires. In this future, there are no real wars in the sense that we and probably every intelligent species ever evolved in the history of our universe has fought (guessing most evolved societies evolved with a firm sense of territory). In the novella, they fight it out in a Dueling Machine. Not whole armies, but just two people. Its two or multiple rounds. In each round a person imagines an arena. It can be a prehistoric time with clubs, it can be a dense forest in the middle age, both arms with either swords or crossbows. They fight set by the conditions of the first combatant, then the second. The winner of the duel is the winner of the war and they can freely annex the other world. Can you imagine the pressure? Imagine waking up one morning and thinking, if I suck at this thing I do, the whole world is lost. If I don’t perform by utmost best, we are all potentially slaves to some green people 60, 70 light years away.
Naturally, this isn’t just for war, its thought of as something to let off steam and resolve any conflict that spirals into a potentially physical contact.
In the novella, the Kerak empire keeps expanding with their sly use of the machine. But their combatant doesn’t just defeat his opponents, somehow, he kills them. According to Dr Leah, the inventor of the Dueling Machine, such a thing is impossible. To halt the Kerak expansion, Leah has to work with a young Star Watch commander, to both figure out what goes wrong in the Dueling Machine once the Keraks use it, as well as how to stop the inevitable expansion and imperialism of the Kerak empire.