Bunch, Chris 1943–2005
Bunch, Chris 1943–2005
(Christopher R. Bunch)
PERSONAL: Born 1943, in Fresno, CA; died of a lung ailment, July 4, 2005, in Ilwaco, WA.
CAREER: Novelist and television writer. Military service: Served in the Vietnam War.
FANTASY AND SCIENCE-FICTION NOVELS
The Seer King, Aspect/Warner (New York, NY), 1997.
The Darkness of God, Random House (New York, NY), 1997.
The Demon King, Aspect/Warner (New York, NY), 1998.
The Warrior King, Aspect/Warner (New York, NY), 1999.
Firemask, Roc (New York, NY), 2000.
Stormforce, Roc (New York, NY), 2000.
The Empire Stone, Aspect/Warner (New York, NY), 2000.
Homefall, Roc (New York, NY), 2001.
Corsair, Aspect/Warner (New York, NY), 2001.
Star Risk, Ltd., Roc (New York, NY), 2002.
The Scoundrel Worlds: A Star Risk, Ltd., Novel, Roc (New York, NY), 2003.
The Doublecross Program: A Star Risk, Ltd., Novel, Roc (New York, NY), 2004.
Storm of Wings, Aspect/Warner (New York, NY), 2005.
Knighthood of the Dragon, Roc (New York, NY), 2006.
FANTASY NOVELS; WITH ALLAN COLE
The Far Kingdoms, Del Rey (New York, NY), 1993.
The Warrior's Tale, Del Rey (New York, NY), 1994.
Kingdoms of the Night, Del Rey (New York, NY), 1995.
NOVELS; WITH ALLAN COLE
Sten, Del Rey (New York, NY), 1982.
The Wolf Worlds, Del Rey (New York, NY), 1984.
The Court of a Thousand Suns, Del Rey (New York, NY), 1986.
A Reckoning for Kings, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1987.
Fleet of the Damned, Del Rey (New York, NY), 1988.
Revenge of the Damned, Del Rey (New York, NY), 1989.
The Return of the Emperor, Del Rey (New York, NY), 1990.
Vortex, Del Rey (New York, NY), 1992.
Empire's End, Del Rey (New York, NY), 1993.
A Daughter of Liberty, Ballantine (New York, NY), 1993.
Kate Loves a Mystery, National Broadcasting Co. (NBC), 1979.
The Incredible Hulk, Columbia Broadcasting Sysytem (CBS), 1979–80.
The Misadventures of Sheriff Lobo, NBC, 1979–81.
Buck Rogers, NBC, 1980.
Code Red, American Broadcasting Co. (ABC), 1981.
Gavilan, NBC, 1982.
The Master, NBC, 1984.
The A-Team, NBC, 1984.
Jessie, ABC, 1984.
Hunter, NBC, 1984.
MacGruder and Loud, ABC, 1985.
TELEVISION EPISODES; WITH ALLAN COLE
Quincy, NBC, 1979–81.
Magnum, P.I., CBS, 1981.
Also author, with Allan Cole, of television scripts for The Rockford Files. Served as combat correspondent, Stars & Stripes. Contributor to periodicals, including Look and Rolling Stone.
SIDELIGHTS: Author Chris Bunch, who died in 2005, made a name for himself as a novelist and television scriptwriter. On his own, he wrote episodes for series such as The A-Team and the Incredible Hulk in the 1980s. His first solo fantasy novel, The Seer King, was published in 1997. More than a dozen other novels followed, including the "Star Risk, Ltd.," science fiction series and other fantasy series. With frequent writing partner Allan Cole, Bunch also worked on popular television shows such as Magnum P.I., Quincy, and The Rockford Files. In addition, Bunch collaborated with Cole on a series of science fiction novels featuring the hero Sten, a fantasy series that follows the adventures of Amalric Antero and his family, and a novel of the Vietnam War entitled A Reckoning for Kings.
Sten first appeared in 1982's eponymous Sten. In subsequent novels such as Fleet of the Damned, the character has had to fight the enemy Tahn in defense of the Emperor. In Revenge of the Damned, Sten must overcome a stint as a slave in a labor camp. In 1992's Vortex, Sten's long-sleeping Emperor finally awakes and attempts to regain his power. Sten must pave the way and keep civil war from breaking out in Alai. Roland Green, reviewing Vortex in Booklist, cited the tale's fast pace and "as many original touches with the main character as can reasonably be expected," in recommending the novel. The suitably titled Empire's End finished Sten's adventures in 1993.
The Far Kingdoms, the first book in Bunch and Cole's fantasy trilogy, appeared in 1994. The novel's protagonist is Amalric Antero, a young man of Orissa about to be sent on his rite-of-passage journey as the tale opens. In the course of his adventures, he is rescued by Janos Greycloak, a student of illegal magic. The two pair up in an attempt to search for the fabled "far kingdoms." The novel is epic and encompasses several journeys involving Antero and Greycloak, as well as the former's marriage and subsequent loss of his wife. On the third journey, Greycloak is corrupted by an evil sorcerer, and Antero must face and fight his old friend in order to save his country. A Publishers Weekly reviewer hailed The Far Kingdoms as "thoughtful and well-crafted," while Vicky Burkholder in the Voice of Youth Advocates warned readers about graphic sex and violence. Still, Burkholder concluded: "It starts slowly, but by the end, you find yourself turning the pages to find out what happens next."
The Warrior's Tale focuses on the character of Amalric Antero's sister, Rali. She is the leader of the all-female Maranon Guard—a band of warriors who have more-or-less contentedly sworn off sexual relations with men. Treated as something of a joke by the male warriors of Orissa, they eventually gain respect by destroying one of two attacking evil wizards and are assigned to track down the survivor. In the course of this quest, which is spent much of the time at sea, Rali rescues a princess with whom she proceeds to have a lesbian affair. In another Booklist piece, Green declared that The Warrior's Tale "lacks absolutely nothing to thoroughly grip fantasy readers," adding that "Rali is a superior entry in the ranks of martial women." A Publishers Weekly reviewer declared the novel to be "a charmingly subversive lesbian feminist romp." Kathleen Beck in the Voice of Youth Advocates noted, "that the warrior of the title is female is an interesting twist that may attract new readers to the genre."
Kingdoms of the Night rounds out the trilogy. Amalric Antero is a prematurely aged man who is lured back into the world of quest by a young woman, Janela, who claims to be Janos Greycloak's granddaughter. She contends that Antero and Greycloak did not actually discover the "far kingdoms" they sought in the first novel; instead, these kingdoms lie even farther beyond the path of their former journeys. Though in the course of their present quest they manage to free the Kingdoms of Night from the king of demons, they must eventually, according to a Kirkus Reviews critic, "shrug off their bodies to go traveling on the psychic plane." A Publishers Weekly reviewer complained that "sequel-itis takes hold of Cole and Bunch" in this novel, but Green "highly recommended" Kingdoms of the Night in Booklist, concluding that the three books together made "one of the most satisfactory recent fantasy trilogies."
Bunch, with his coauthor Cole, took a departure from the worlds of fantasy and science fiction for their 1987 collaboration, A Reckoning for Kings. Though this novel utilizes as its setting a fictional Vietnamese province, it tells the story of the Tet Offensive, which helped determine the outcome of the Vietnam War. The authorial pair uses a variety of viewpoints to relate their tale, including that of a North Vietnamese general named Duan, American Major Shannon, and a lowly private trying to survive. Larry Heinemann gave A Reckoning for Kings a positive notice in the Los Angeles Times Book Review, remarking that "Bunch and Cole's combined knowledge of the war in Southeast Asia is encyclopedic—how to rig your pack, what a starlight scope is, what is the sound of a company-size air assault, what it is to wallow in the squalor of the aftermath of a fire fight, on and on." Heinemann concluded that "overall, what the story gives you is a sense of the inevitable chaos of a military campaign; the incredible personal, physical pain; the extreme ugliness of the death that awaits even the most savvy line animal—as grunts are called here." A Publishers Weekly critic praised the book as well, citing its "excitement and suspense" and calling it "a compelling, if conventional, story of men at war."
Bunch struck out on his own for the 1997 fantasy novel The Seer King. The narrator of this tale, Damastes, is a member of the former kingdom of Numantia's cavalry. Assigned to a diplomatic mission, he teams up with a seer called Tenedos in order to fight the powers of neighboring Kait—powers that include the avaricious Baber Fergana, the evil sorcerer Irshad, and a demon answering to Thak who heads a cult of assassins. Thak pursues the pair back to Numantia accompanied by his loyal stranglers, and with the help of Chardin Sher, a wizard more powerful than Tenedos, sets off a civil war in Damastes' homeland. In order to quell this conflict, Damastes and Tenedos must attempt to take over Numantia themselves. During this process, they are beset by further military and magical problems. As in the case of A Reckoning for Kings, critics noticed what a Kirkus Reviews contributor termed "Bunch's sure grasp of military history and organization." A Publishers Weekly reviewer pointed to the "glaringly modern dialogue" for a fantasy novel but conceded that "Bunch knows how to mold heroes, how to keep the pace fast and how to create exciting scenes."
Bunch wrote two sequels to The Seer King—The Demon King and The Warrior King. The finale finds Damastes still fighting, even after he manages to free himself from prison. He falls in love with a sorceress named Cymea, and they team up against Tenedos, whom Damastes betrayed in the second volume of the trilogy. Reviewing The Warrior King, a contributor for Publishers Weekly found the novel a "brawny story of war and power," and went on to praise Bunch's writing as "clear and vivid."
Bunch turned to military science fiction with Star Risk, Ltd., the first title in a sequence of novels following the adventures and misadventures of a "motley crew of spacefaring mercenaries," as Roland Green described the protagonists in Booklist. Former members of the military, the Star Risk crew hires out to the highest payers for dangerous intergalactic missions. In their debut, they are joined by marine major M'chel Riss, who has left the service after eight years of duty and is looking for a way to better her ailing finances. Joining Star Risk, Ltd., she and the other members set off on an attempt to free another soldier from a high-security prison. This debut title demonstrated, according to Green, "superior" pacing. The Scoundrel Worlds continues the adventures of the Star Risk team. Here they are at first hired to give security to referees at a skyball tournament, for the fans—who come from many different planets—have pushed rowdy behavior into murderous action. After successfully completing this mission, the team sets about gathering evidence to prove that another man is innocent of treason charges. Booklist contributor Frieda Murray found this novel "lightweight action sf that sometimes reads like a novelized TV script."
The prolific Bunch was also writing a fantasy series, "Dragonmaster," at the same time as his "Star Risk, Ltd.," series. The fantasy sequence was initiated with Storm of Wings, which follows the development of Hal Kailis from a teenager enchanted with the dragons that inhabit the rocky regions near his village to the mature warrior and Dragonmaster he becomes. Conscripted into the Derain army, Hal survives a bloody battle against the Roche, the only one of his outfit to make it. Thereafter, he seeks revenge for his fallen comrades, becoming a dragon flier and quickly earning promotion. Sally Estes, reviewing Storm of Wings in Booklist, noted that the action is "nonstop and violent" in this first book in the series, and that "Bunch's military background stands him in good stead." Reviewing the same title in the Library Journal, Jackie Cassada felt "fans of military fantasy and dragon lore should enjoy this fantasy adventure." The action is carried forward in Knighthood of the Dragon, in which the Derain-Roche war continues. Hal, now a Dragonmaster, is lingering in a Roche prison and must escape somehow to rejoin his men and fight on. Cassada, writing in the Library Journal, commented that Bunch had created "a tale of epic war and sorcery with a strong appeal to dragon lovers." Bunch died shortly after completing Knighthood of the Dragon.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, April 15, 1992, Roland Green, review of Vortex, p. 1509; October 15, 1994, Roland Green, review of The Warrior's Tale, p. 405; May 15, 1995, Roland Green, review of Kingdoms of the Night, p. 1635; August, 2002, Roland Green, review of Star Risk, Ltd., p. 1936; September 1, 2002, Sally Estes, review of Storm of Wings, p. 70; August, 2003, Frieda Murray, review of The Scoundrel Worlds: A Star Risk, Ltd., Novel, p. 1967; September 15, 2003, Frieda Murray, review of Knighthood of the Dragon, p. 217.
Kirkus Reviews, August 15, 1993, review of The Far Kingdoms; September 1, 1994, review of The Warrior's Tale; April 15, 1995, review of Kingdoms of the Night; December 1, 1996, review of The Seer King.
Library Journal, March 15, 1984, review of The Wolf Worlds, p. 600; March 15, 1987, Robert H. Donahugh, review of A Reckoning for Kings, p. 88; October 15, 1994, Jackie Cassada, review of The Warrior's Tale, p. 90; September 15, 2002, Jackie Cassada, review of Storm of Wings, p. 97; September 15, 2003, Jackie Cassada, review of Knighthood of the Dragon, p. 96.
Locus, July, 1993, Farin Miller, review of The Far Kingdoms, pp. 19, 47-48.
Los Angeles Times Book Review, April 26, 1987, Larry Heinemann, review of A Reckoning for Kings, p. 6.
Publishers Weekly, February 3, 1984, review of The Wolf Worlds, p. 40; November 28, 1986, Sybil Steinberg, review of A Reckoning for Kings, p. 67; November 20, 1987, review of A Reckoning for Kings, p. 66; August 30, 1993, review of The Far Kingdoms, p. 80; October 24, 1994, review of The Warrior's Tale, p. 56; May 22, 1995, review of Kingdoms of the Night, p. 52; January 20, 1997, review of The Seer King, p. 399; January 25, 1999, review of The Warrior King, p. 77.
Voice of Youth Advocates, February, 1994, Vicky Burkholder, review of The Far Kingdoms; May, 1995, Kathleen Beck, review of The Warrior's Tale.