Top critical review
3 people found this helpful
A childish book with delusions of adolescence
on 23 July 2012
I hate it when you wade through to the end of a book just so you can write a negative review in good conscience. That's what happened me here, despite my New Year resolution not to finish reading a book just for the sake of getting it ticked off a list.
The story is about a boy born as a member of a super sub-race of human beings. They are hated by normal humans, persecuted, hunted, and mass murdered. They are stronger, smarter, and (some of them) can read minds. Will the boy fulfil is destiny to continue his father's scientific work, find a perfect mate, bring peace between warring species, and generally come top of the class at being brilliant? You guess...
I hate this book. It is exactly the sort of limply written drivel that gives sci-fi a bad name. And Van Vogt is supposed to be up there with the likes of Isaac Asimov and Robert Heinlein (re the latter, see my review of 'Stranger in a Strange Land'). Different planets? Different ends of the multiverse, more like!
I hate the main character. To call him two dimensional is an insult to length or breadth. Although we read his point of view from a boy to a man, there is no substantial change in maturity or development in thought process. He passes through the fire of suffering like a software package, all data, no debate.
I hate all the secondary characters, some of whom read like baddies from a Dick Tracy cartoon. Almost as dire are the portrayal of women, who fit into every archetypal pigeonhole of innocent Virgin or spunky Amazon.
I hate the portrayal of superhumanity. Ok, they can read minds. What else? Well, they are very smart. How? They use words like "logical" and "therefore" a lot, like Vulcan rejects from a Star Trek convention. Big deal.
I hate the back story. It mostly takes the form of large chunks of dialogue in which someone gives a history lecture to the hero, explaining how things are they way they are. There is absolutely no sense of context or demonstration with this; in your mind, you are taken nowhere except to words on a page.
I hate the 'science' bits. Yes, there is some attempt at explaining new atomic forms of power, space flight and distant moons. Yes, I know that since the author is explaining entities that do not exist, it is always going to involve writing gibberish. But sci-fi gibberish can be intriguing, intelligent, even informed. This had the absurd vocabulary of a Jabberwocky, words thrown around randomly to see what would come up. Northing did.
I hate the way it was narrated, with massive gaps of years in between chapters, sometimes between paragraphs, just because the author couldn't be bothered with proper continuity. I could see the twists and shocks coming a mile off. Maybe that means I'm superhuman; or more likely, that I've got an IQ in the triple figures.
I even hate the cover. It looks like its advertising a camp Swedish sex romp. It disturbs me. I want to rip it off. I'd do it too, along with the rest of the book, if I wasn't so precious with my book collection.
Please, don't read this book, never mind buy it. Instead, go for Gladiator by Philip Wylie or Odd John by Olaf Stapledon, both of which are twenty times what this book could ever hope to be by its greatest advocate. If you want to know why, read my reviews.