Thursday, December 30, 2010
Thursday, December 23, 2010
2010 is about to wrap up, so what better way to end the year than with a sarcastic timeline relating to the events depicted in the shitty books I read every week?
12,000 BC: (Time Slave, estimate) Brenda Hamilton arrives in the Paleolithic to gain an education in suffering and degradation to supplement her PHD.
1936 AD: (Dinosaur Beach) Time-sweep agent Ravel shoots a cyborg to 'death' in a shabby apartment after telling his wife he was just going out for a beer run. What a dick.
1953 AD: (The Well Of The Worlds) Clifford Sawyer plays the role of inter-dimensional Spartacus by sticking it to the snake people who have enslaved humanity and a rich asshole who put a kill-switch in his brain.
1977 AD: (Black In Time)'A black militant, a white supremacist, and a time travel device tangle in a fight to rewrite history and eternity!' Presented without comment.
1980's AD: (Camp Concentration, estimate) Louis Sacchetti is imprisoned for being a conscientious objector. They experiment on him with a strain of syphilis that boosts intelligence, which is unfortunately squandered on him as he spends the rest of the novel writing whiny poetry.
2002 AD: (Deus Irae, estimate) Limbless Tibor McMasters is sent on a pilgrimage through the nuclear wastes. Why? So he can paint a portrait of the malevolent atomic god he worships using his metal claw prosthesis and a paintbrush made out of donkey hair.
2170's AD: (The Sodom And Gomorrah Business, estimate) Just your average buddy road trip novel with some added sexual assault and murder to spice things up.
2300's AD: (The Demolished Man, Estimate) Evil rich guy Reich throws a party so he can kill off his competitor, hoping he can then fool the telepathic police force and get off scot-free.
2600's AD: (Under A Calculating Star, estimate) Captain Jorry takes us on a galactic treasure hunt that ends in a Quespodon revolution. Also: a green alien lady gets naked!
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
|They rejected the title 'Rape in Time'|
“The author of the novels of Tarl Cabot on Gor, Earth's orbital counterpart, has turned his talent to the problem of time travel and our own world's primitive era.
What has happened to man since the days when his rugged ancestors battled the mastodon and the saber-toothed tiger and wrestled a living from the raw nature of an untamed world?
This was the directive that brought a dedicated group of scientists to devise a means of sending one of their number back into the Old Stone Age when the great hunters of the Cro-Magnon days ripped the world away from the Neanderthals and their save clan rivals.
It's a John Norman novel comparable to his epics of Gor and to the best jungle sagas of the mighty Tarzan.”
-The Back Cover
DAW Books, copyright 1975. $1.50 cover price. 380 pages.
Oh man, where to start? This novel is even viler than Norman's Gor series, which is saying quite a bit. I think I will spare you most of my thoughts on this piece of shit and give you a synopsis.
Dr. Brenda Hamilton—mathematician, feminist, bombshell—accepts a job under false pretense from Herjellsen, an octogenarian who definitely fulfills the 'mad scientist' archetype. It isn't until Hamilton has been at Herjellsen's Rhodesian compound for a few weeks that she discovers the madman is actually working on time travel, and that she is both a prisoner and one of the subjects about to be sent back in time.
This all sounds pretty standard, and it is, but right around page 50 is when Norman starts in with his bizarre dom-sub philosophies, so the whole story becomes murky. Before Hamilton can be sent back to the distant past (in the hopes that she will join a group of Cro-mags), her will must be broken by Herjellsen's lackeys until she is deemed ready for the submissive, slave-like existence that awaits her.
Here’s the old crank's explanation to Hamilton before he shoves her into a box for a one-way trip to the Stone Age:
“’You must understand,' said Herjellsen, ‘that if you were transmitted as a modern woman, irritable, sexless, hostile, competitive, hating men, your opportunities or survival might be considerably less.’" (111)
Hamilton’s mission? To turn ancient mankind's eyes to the stars so that space travel hurries along, allowing Herjellsen to partake in exploration of the galaxy, because what the universe really needs is Herjellsen 'bad touching' his way from star to star. Why Hamilton? Because she was the sexiest virgin they could find on such short notice, plus chaining up learned feminists is apparently the hobby of Herjessen's second in command, Gunther. It only took a few pages for the man to get his results:
"’I'm a prisoner,’ she said. ‘I want to be fucked like a prisoner, used!’” (63)
Time Slave wouldn't be a John Norman book if women didn't revel in their captivity, which brings us to the middle of the book, where things get real. Brenda Hamilton, transported to an unfamiliar time, is naked and running through the forest with a leopard in pursuit when she runs into Tree, a red blooded Cro-Magnon hunter.
At page 143 is the first (of many, very unfortunate) rape scenes in Time Slave. Some go on for pages, none are really necessary. The next 100 pages chronicle Brenda's transformation from a (caricature of) a fully realized woman to a whimpering, sex-obsessed slave. Of course, this being a John Norman novel, she revels in this change and feels that she has finally become a 'true woman':
“For the first time in her life she felt the fantastic sentience of an owned, loving female... She had just begun, under the hands of a primeval hunter, to learn the capacities of her femaleness.” (220)
The most unfortunate aspect of Time Slave is that there are, in fact, portions of the book about Stone Age man that aren't just a vehicle for Norman’s weirdo sexual philosophies, and they are actually pretty good. Plenty of action, along with the intricate detail devoted to each tribe's unique culture, plus some cool flora and fauna (cave bears!) could have been enough for a decent story in themselves.
Regrettably, more than half of this novel is lent to Norman's BDSM leanings, which involves a repetitive, preachy tone because the man is literally trying to convert you.
Time Slave is an interesting example of the sleazy underbelly of 70s SF, but I can't really recommend it on any other level.
Wednesday, December 8, 2010
|Cover is actually a good representation|
of how muddled the story is
Dinosaur Beach is a Nexx Central station located millions of years in the past, in the Jurassic Age. but shortly after Ravel's arrival, the station is attacked and destroyed, and Ravel begins a terrifying odyssey through time. For the attackers were another time-tampering team from still a different future era. And Ravel himself is not only in growing danger but the human world as we know it... -The (poorly written) back cover
DAW Books UQ1021. Published 1971. 151 pages. 95c cover price.
Laumer starts Dinosaur Beach off strong with time-sweep agent Ravel abruptly awakening from a hypnotic state as a sleeper agent, which involved a happy marriage, to eliminate a rogue cyborg in the 'distant past' of 1936. Mission accomplished, our protagonist is zipped back to the Jurassic in order to have his memory wiped and a new personality laid over ita procedure Ravel is looking forward to since the wound from leaving his dear wife is still raw and painful.
Right around this point in the novel, which isn't too far in, I noticed the many this storys many inconsistencies. Granted, picking apart time travel yarns is a hobby in itself, particularly for the losers that flock to the SF genre (like myself). However, Dinosaur Beach had far too many to list in this little blog. E.g.: If Nexx Central is attempting to clean up numerous generations of abuse from the past, why destroy an anachronistic (for 1936) piece of technology like a cyborg, only to leave all of its parts for the natives to discover? Why are Nexx Central agents eating baby stegosaur and partying on the beach millions of years ago when their mission is to leave behind no trace? Laumer just doesnt make an effort to make the story logical, so after about 50 pages, I decided I wouldnt concern myself with paradoxes and plot holes.
Concerns about plausibility ditched, Dinosaur Beach becomes more enjoyable, but it still has its issues. A love story that takes up a good chunk of the book is tossed aside for a lukewarm 'twist' at the end, and the result is that the little emotional impact the novel was striving for falls flat. Likewise, the time travel itself takes us to very few exotic locales in favor of vague 'null spaces,' plus different variations of the titular beach that Ravel on which keeps finding himself stranded.
Im intrigued by the short story The Time Sweepers on which this novel was based, as I think Dinosaur Beach could be much more memorable if boiled down to a 30 page story about killing robots in the Jurassic. Maybe move the party to the Cretaceous so a T-Rex can crash it? Make that a cyborg T-Rex with lasers firing out of its little vestigial arms and now youre cooking with gas!
Altogether, this ended up being a filler week. Sorry guys!
Friday, December 3, 2010
|Thankfully the fire whips had nothing to do|
with BDSM.. Enough of that!
Clifford Sawyer, investigating ghosts in a mine, finds ancient beings from another world and gets swept up in a titanic struggle between for control of a parallel dimension.
When the curiously exotic millionaress Klai Ford started telling him about ghosts in a uranium mine, Sawyer knew he better be ready for anything in his investigations. But he didn't count on being drawn into a passage between dimensions and tossed adrift in a world of islands floating in the sky, where strange brutelike creatures were attacking the cities in a vast struggle for power. Lost in the new [missing section] realized that the key to [missing section] mysterious Well of the Worlds [missing section] the future of the universe [missing section] secret.
-The back cover, which is pretty damn mangled.
Ace Books F-344, published 1952. 40c cover price. 142 pages.
The old Ace Books from the 50s and 60s have been a lot of fun in my experience, andThe Well of the Worldsdoes not disappoint. Set in the (then) very near future of 1953, the story begins in fictional city of Fortuna, which is located at one of our planet's poles (Kuttner doesn't specify). The Earth's poles were discovered to be loaded with uranium, so Fortuna is a boom town with an economy centered on the lucrative mining of the radioactive substance.
Clifford Sawyer, an agent of the Royal Atomic Energy Commission (by Toronto), is sent to investigate the bizarre allegations being made by Klai Ford, who inherited her large section of the mine only a few months ago under strange circumstances. Klai tells Sawyer a panicky story about how the mine has been overrun by ghosts, and that she believes the man who owns the rest of the mine, William Alper (total rich guy name), is trying to kill her.
Sawyer is, of course, skeptical of such a bizarre story, but he becomes a true believer when Alper surgically implants a kill switch into his brain, divulges that he has been communicating with an inter-dimensional being, then get the three of them sucked into said other dimension. All of this takes place within the first 30 pages!
|This is why we can't have nice things!|
The remaining 100 pages ofthe Well of the Worldstake place on an alternate Earth where humanity is enslaved by the nearly immortal, serpentine, and extremely pretentious Isier. In this second phase of the book, Kuttner's imagery almost reaches the limits of the surreal, as the alternate dimension he paints is vividly colored and extremely ornate. The story meanders here and there, but the action is taut and Sawyer is an interesting character whose hand in the human uprising kept me interested throughout.
I would highly recommend this novel to those interested in SF from this time period. This is one well-written book that abandons many formulaic tropes for excellent storytelling and plenty of adventure.The Well of the Worlds effortlessly captures the sense of wonder that many genre books of the 1950's sought to capture, and I am glad to have stumbled upon it in a musty book reseller in Houston.