Buck Rogers in the 25th Century by Addison E. Steele (Richard A. Lupoff) is the first time in a fifty year span that Buck is presented in a novel form, not since his original conception in the titles Armageddon 2419 A.D. and The Airlords of Han. In those fifty years the portrayed concepts have of course changed considerably but the same foundation of a hero from the Earth of antiquity saving the remains of the future world remain the same.
In this story of Buck Rogers we begin with Buck blasting off on a distant voyage to no where in particular in a state-of-the-art space ship while on terra a cold war conflict is described between the United States and Russia, killer satellites and all. After this minimal exposition Buck's long sleep begins and everything gets put into fast forward to nearly five hundred years in the future. In the original novel (Armageddon 2419 A.D.) Buck gets exposed to radioactive gas in a mine while here it is a malfunction is suspended animation technology on the ship. After five hundred years in orbit he comes full circle back to Earth where some ships on patrol encounter him floating through space without response and take him to be a threat.
After being revived by the clearly evil characters called the Draconians Buck meets the antagonists Princess Ardala and her commander Kane. In homage to cheesy sitcoms the typical misunderstanding of who Buck is and why he is here plays out with them saying he is a spy from Earth. In response they the Draconians send him back to Earth as their unknowing spy in hopes to penetrate Earth's global force field. Unfortunately for Buck the future Earthling also have the same misunderstanding of who he is since they too decide he is a spy, Buck takes this all with a jovial mood. On Earth more characters are introduced and he gets a now somewhat iconic, for the absurdness alone, side-kick named Twiki and his talking computer pendant Dr. Theopolis.
Buck soon learns that Earth is but a torn remnant from what it use to be. What is left of civilization is a domed city called Inner City while outside is polluted and radioactive. How they managed to build a massive domed city and destructive global force field with so little resources the reader can only guess. Buck soon gets a chance venture out into the wastes to see first hand how drastically the world has changes but return only mildly disturbed. Being the hero that he is he diverts his attention to taking on greater and loftier pursuits such as saving Earth from a plot of Draconian conquest that only he has managed to suss out. In the end he returns to the Draconian mother ship where he rigs the enemy fleet to explode once they use their ships engines. After the anti-battle Buck and his side-kick on the ship are saved and return to Earth in happiness.
The fact that this novelization was released five months before the short running television series was aired is apparent by an almost total lack of atmosphere and one glaring plot construction mistake. Most likely Lupoff was handed a script from which to write the book and instead risk portraying the settings different than what would eventually be seen on television he chose to use little to none at all.
Aside from visuals there are no transitions to speak from scene-to-scene causing myself a many case of disorientation in trying to quickly understand where the characters were in relation to each other. The biggest problem in the plot construction is in the reordering the point where the wasteland scene happens to a place where it makes no sense. In the final cut of the television show Buck runs off to the wastes to satisfy his curiosity and out of companionship Twiki goes along with him. On his return Buck is tried as being a traitor for a tracking module that was found in his ship. In the novelization however he is first tried for being a traitor then sentenced to punishment in the wastes. This alone would make some sense except for the fact the very next scene Buck is in the wastes accompanied by Twiki and Theopolis. This makes no sense as Twiki and Theopolis are not punished, it is obvious that Lupoff did understand the final plot treatment and instead crafted something of his own which failed in simple logic.
If you are looking to Buck Rogers in the 25th Century to satisfy 25th century apocalyptic speculation of Earth I suggest you look elsewhere. The scene of Buck traveling in the wastes is short and anti-climatic and even absurd once you read that Buck find the specific grave of his wife and family. Buck Rogers plays quickly with shallow characters and simple plot.
There is one man left in the universe who can save the planet Earth. He is...
Come Along on the Greatest of All Adventures! Join Buck Rogers in the 25th Century!...
As he plunges into the cosmos on Earth's last deep-space probe...
As he succumbs to an assault of tremendously cold gases...
As he is miraculously revived after a five-hundred-year "frozen death" aboard a Draconian Empire ship—only to become a plaything of the alluring Princess Ardala and a pawn in the tracherous game of Kane, menacing commander of the Draconian fleet...
As he returns to Earth a stranger, feared, suspected, driven out into the lawless wastes of Anarchia—with only a devoted android and a computerized drone...to help him save his life—and his planet—from dread tyranny
A hero and an adventure—for all time!
A 25th Century Dogfight
Wilma Deering's Starfighter went into its automatically programmed maneuvers, rolling across the sky. The marauder craft followed, matching move for move.
Buck watched in shock, flicked on his radio, shouted at Wilma, "Take it down, Colonel! Straight down! Don't roll! Throw on your space-flaps!"
"I can't!" Wilma cried in response. "It's against all the principles of modern space combat!"
And they sky began to explode all around her.
Buck's ship flashed across the sky, streaking to a point above the maneuvering pair. Buck dived, swung through a difficult Immelmann, streaked toward marauder from nine o'clock, and pressed his firing stud oncer, twice.
The marauder blossomed into flame. For once Buck was able to grim... as was the pilot of the rescued Starfighter, Colonel Wilma Deering!
Buck pulled his Starfighter alongside Wilma's, tossed her old-fashioned thumbs-up salute, then streaked away, leaving the colonel to reexamine her notions of military doctrine—and her feelings about Captain William "Buck" Rogers!
The Supreme Space Spectacular from Universal!