Sunday, April 13, 2008

Space Vulture -- Gary K. Wolf and Archbishop John J. Myers

In one of the paragraphs on the back cover of this book, Gene Wolfe blurbs, ". . . it has the taste and feel and bouquet of the real thing it's Planet Stories come all the way back to roaring life again!"

I beg to differ.

In spite of the two introductions in which the authors proclaim their affection for the space operas of the early '50s, this book, intended as their tribute to them, doesn't even come close. I was sorely disappointed in the first fifty or sixty pages, and I doubt I'll be reading any more.

What's the problem? The whole approach is wrong. This isn't so much a pastiche of those old SF adventures as a parody. The style is arch and knowing, as if the two writers are nudging and winking at each other with every line. Give me the real thing. Edmond Hamilton, Robert Silverberg, Milton Lesser, Leigh Brackett, and others who wrote for the SF digests gave you slam-bang adventure without the winks and nudges. It was high-spirited stuff, but it was mostly played straight. That's what I liked about it, and that's why I gave up on Space Vulture. Maybe it will work for everybody else, but it just doesn't work for me.

Here's a sample of the prose: "As the only person known to tap the human brain's total power, Space Vulture's Common IQ rating was off the scale, too high to be measured. His best self-estimate put it at 850, several hundred points above the galaxy's largest artificially intelligent computer."

Grammar problems aside, it seems a lot like parody to me. I'll take the Good Old Stuff any day.

Update: I forgot to mention that the book's over 300 pages. I doubt any novel by Planet Stories writer would be more than 200 back in the '50s.


Fred Blosser said...

I had a similar problem with "Chinatown Death Cloud Peril" a couple of years ago, although it received several good reviews and a lot of other pulp fans appeared to like it. The tone was all wrong, it seemed to me.

Bill Crider said...

My feeling exactly, Fred, and I think I mentioned it here on the blog.

Juri said...

Same with me. It might've worked as a mainstream novel, but not as a pulpy adventure.

Todd Mason said...

Brackett particularly was writing adventure fiction that could stand unashamed with that of anyone else, not getting too jokey with names nor making the exoticism intrusive and giving the story some heft and sense of real consequence for the characters. As far as I'm concerned, among the PLANET folks I've read, only Charles Harness (with his manic invention) and Jack Vance (with his lapidary prose and ironic approach toward humanity rather than toward the work at hand) could consistently touch her...though her husband certainly had his points.

Wonder how the book will do in the Bishopric.

Rusty said...

Forgive me for humorlessly taking the fun out of their little joke, but an IQ score of 850 is way beyond the pale. IQ is generally calculated as [100 x (mental age/chronological age)]. Say the Space Vulture is 30 years old; to get an IQ of 850, he would have to score on the test at the level of the average 255 year old. I can't imagine there'd be a large sample size.


Todd Mason said...

Well, in the time/space of Space Vultures, Rusty...insert obligatory John McCain joke here, as if his age was extraordinary.