book reviews by Althea

Earthman, Come Home – James Blish **

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Did-not-finish. (Read to page 118.)
Usually, I’d give only one star to a did-not-finish, but there’s nothing about this book that has aggravated me; I have no strong criticism. It just has failed to hold my interest. I started reading some Haruki Murakami short stories and can’t bring myself to pick this back up.

I hadn’t read any Blish in probably 25 years – since I was really into reading Star Trek novelizations. As far as I recall, his Star Trek books were OK – some of the first ones – but not the best ones, even back then.

I rather feel that when people criticize science fiction as a genre, they’re talking about books like this (if they know what they’re talking about.) It features lack of significant characterization, a plot that’s a series of events rather than a dramatic structure, and a concentration on ideas rather than story. And they’re some quite half-baked ideas too. Socially, it also feels extremely dated (as if everyone in the future is still living in an imaginary 1950’s). I’d blame the time period – but I just read some Theodore Sturgeon, written around the same time period, and the guy doesn’t fall victim to that trap in the slightest, so… yeah, this book just isn’t very good.

The concept is that anti-gravity is invented, which causes cities (as a group) to lift themselves off the face of the earth and to function as mercenary spaceships-for hire. This means that the Mayor of New York (just Manhattan) is now essentially a spaceship captain. Interstellar travel and adventures ensue. Eh.


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