Most of my reading is on the heavy side and I thought a science fiction paperback -- one of the pillars of my childhood -- would be a nice break. I thought it wouldn't matter if it was very good. I'd still get something out of it. Not in this case.
Other reviews complain about trite characters, tin dialogue and several bursts of sadism. This might convey the sense that if the author had just worked to add some more color and detail and toned down a few passages, this would be a passable way to spend an afternoon. It's not. Glorious Treason is more along the lines of Twain's assessment of one of James Fenimore Cooper's works that he figured "scored 114 offenses against literary art out of a possible 115."
It is not simply that Glorious Treason deploys science fiction cliches, so that, predictably, future humanity is held together by a vast empire with an equally vast bureaucracy. Rather, the author raids a whole host of genres, running off with their cliches to create an ugly mass of worn out ideas -- a dense neutron star of cliches. We get bullies who terrorize small towns in Westerns, the sexy, glamorous and super-rich woman and her down-to-earth, slightly dufus sidekick/foil from chick lit, the kidnaping and rescuing of a damsel in distress from action movies, the painful expository dialogue from 1930s pulp fiction in which characters tell each other things they both already know ("As you know, Doctor Finnegan, since you invented the rediscripinator, its purpose is to. . ."), the preachy lectures found in clumsier propaganda, etc. The only thing new is that the novel inverts the old pulp trap of having a racy cover that has nothing to do with the actual novel: I'm pretty confident that at no point in the novel that the main character wears anything as conservative as her attire on the cover the paperback.
And this is not new wine in old wineskins. The psychology of the characters, well, it isn't. I finished the book convinced that the author has never met a human being, let alone engaged in a sustained conversation with one. (Write about what you know.) Case and point, the dialogue on p. 173:
>"But it's what I want, and I'll do whatever I have to in order to get it. I told you, I'm cold-blooded and ruthless, and I have absolutely no sense of shame. Sex is my trump card, Petra, and I'll use it any way I have to. I mean, what's the point of being the most desirable woman in the Empire if I don't use that to get what I want?"
>"I guess you're right," Petra said.
>"And what about you, Petra? What do you want?"
>"I guess," Petra said after a moment's thought, "what I want is to go on being your best buddy and gal Friday. And when you're in charge of Dextra, I'll be right there outside your door, guarding the gate to the castle." Petra giggle, then added, "Because that would make _me_ the most powerful woman in the Empire!"
If there is a theory of human motivation in this novel, it's that all men are hopeless and helpless in the face of a twenty-four year old blonde who shows off her pubic hair and that women are all exhibitionists, even if they don't have the nerve to act the impulse.
Then we get to the things that are genuinely annoying. This book is set in a retro-1849 California gold rush, in which miners are after the spice melange, which can only be found on one planet and is necessary for faster-than-light travel. Excuse me. Gettin' confused. They're panning creeks for Fergusite crystal, which can only be found on one planet and is necessary for faster-than-light travel.
Not only is the future history of humanity tortured into strange shapes to recreate the California Gold Rush, all the characters think as twentieth-century Americans. Despite living 1,200 years into the future, they only refer to events that a modern American would know. And their sense of technology is so 1990s that their communications technology is already dated: at one point, a character in a meeting shows anxiety by shuffling papers. Really?
I could go on and talk about how this novel, say, glamorizes workplace sex, but this thoughtless junkpile doesn't deserve any more attention.