42 of 53 people found the following review helpful
A lamb in wolf's clothing...,
By A Customer
This review is from: The Centauri Device (S.F. MASTERWORKS) (Paperback)I must disagree with all of my fellow reviewers! This is, without any doubt on my part, the worst book, out of a dozen or so, I have read in this series so far. Being fairly well read in SF, I was a little surprised to find the name of an author completely unknown to me herein. If this is the best of his work, I certainly have no wish to read any more.
Far from 'empathizing' with his characters, I found almost all, at best, unengaging, and, at worst, actively repellent. Being a huge fan of Iain M. Banks, I am unable to find any comparison between this work & his own. I am at a loss as to why he should apparently admire this dreadful book.
"...never verbose or pretentious..."? Au contraire, it is never anything else, and the prose is empty and meaningless, when it is not utter rubbish. It puts me in mind of the archetypical Main Street of a Western film set, where the buildings are merely facades with nothing behind them. At worst, he describes a room as 'frugal & austere' and then procedes with 'little chintzy curtains, a stained wooden floor and carpets of Turkey' Chintz curtains - frugal? Turkish carpets - austere? Uh, I think not!
The book is riddled with clumsy deus ex machina, one of my pet hates. The 'hero' is moved smoothly from chapter to chapter, not because he would naturally do so, but because people (usually one 'villain' or another) conveniently turn up, for no apparent reason other than that the author needs them to do so. He could easily have suggested, for instance, that the various groups pursuing Truck had bugged his clothing, but no, he seems more concerned with his florid phrases. Characters, particularly the military, behave in a singularly stupid fahion, because the author wishes them to do so. One group in the book has conveniently 'found' some alien ships in deep space & have, apparently, easily been able to utilise them (because the plot requires it). Speaking of which, Mr Harrison's grasp of military tactics & the advance of technology is pathetic - he describes the culminating space battle, in unlikely terms, as though it were a WWI dogfight! If it were written in the 40's it would be a poor effort, as it was written in the 70's it is simply woeful. Thankfully, he leaves the hard science of how things work very, very vague, since what little he does say suggests a surfeit of flowery language & a deficit of any scientific knowledge at all.
From first to last, this is a pitiful effort. If I may alliterate, this is poor pulp packaged in pretentious prose. It seems to me as if, throughout the entirety of the book, the author is crying "look what wonderful phrases I can write!" The phrases aren't wonderful, and there is nothing else to the book. As my title says, a lamb in wolf's clothing, it should never, in my opinion, have got anywhere near a 'masterworks' series.