Monday, 21 December 2009

Galactic Medal of Honour

I picked this up second hand a couple of years ago and finally got around to reading it (while waiting for Yellow Blue Tibia to show up from I have friend who used to be forever extolling the virutues of this, so when I saw it I snagged it for later eading. The copy I got is an old Pan or Panther or NEL (not sure off the top of my head) paperback from the 70s but it features really ugly cover art that's been kind of putting me off reading it. Don't judge a book by its cover, I know, but if it's not Foss or Burns or maybe Frank Frazetta, then I'm not interested!

This is by Mack Reynolds and was apparently first published in 1976, but from the word go is incredibly old fashioned! Obviously, it's pre-Star Wars and pre-cyberpunk, and those two caused a continental shift in SF, but even bearing that in mind this book comes across as creaky and old fashioned. Don Mathers is a Sinatra-swinger and ne'er do well kinda like one of those guys that shows up in Harry Harrison or Bob Sheckley novels, all three martinis and pinching the waitress's bottom. At the beginning of the novel the guy breaks up with his fiancee, and it's heavily implied that she hasn't "come across" (as I bet Don would say). She leaves him for the mining corporations of Callisto because "I'm a trained secretary, you know!" Score one for women's lib!

The main thrust - the phoney war and stupid or eveil people who keep the war machine going - is very Pohl/Kornbluth, and maybe Reynolds thought the anti-war theme was topical in the 70s. I guess so, but if you compare this The Forever War, say, it really shows the dearth of wit and SF imagination at work. This one of those SF novels where the future is just like today but everything is prefixed with electro-, auto- or synth- to show that it's not just coffee but futuristic snyth-cafe.

It's structuarally rather poor as well, with a big long bit in the middle where Don goes along with the swindle (he's been convinced to be the fake hero of a fake battle with the fake aliens) and reflects on what a fake he is. Reynolds doesn't really bring his existential malaise alive in any real way, and all this looks like padding to me (this is a fix up of a story first published in F&SF, IIRC from the copyright page - I don't have it with me as I type this at work). The final worm-turns moment happens in the last ten pages or so, but it could easily have happened fifty pages earlier. It's interesting, I guess, in that the socialist arguments against war-mongering capitalists are very explicit, but really even that is probably too explicit having been put in the mouth of a character who is clearly present just to be such a mouthpiece.

All-in-all a disappointment,even though I wasn't expecting much. I had hoped for something a little more 70s scurrilous - a big tits and rock music sort of book or the kind Norman Spinrad or Mick Farren used to write, but this was very seemly and old fashioned. In the movie that ran in my head, Don Mathers was played by an aging Jack Lord in a roll neck in the sort of performance that makes you queasy everytime he gropes the starlet half his age.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.