Monday, February 27, 2006

5 Pages per Page!

The Monitor, The Miners, and the Shree
Lee Killough
1980, Del Rey Publishing
Rating: -2.4 Scale (-12:12)

The size of the picture that we at Elfstar Industries were able to plunder from an unsuspecting website will give you some idea of the lasting potential of this novel. First published in 1980, I don't believe that this little SF set-piece has ever been reprinted; while single-printing books are common in SF, and are often undeserved, this book is one where the single printing is actually fortunate for the world.

The basic premise of the book is as follows: there's this galactic empire, right? And they want proto-cultures to develop without outside influence and join up when they're ready, rather than being pushed from the Stone Age to the Space Age with no middle ground. But, well, capitalism still runs the day, and the planet of Taim is full o' tasty minerals, and people want to mine it, even though the Shree, a flying Stone-Age race, live there.

Sounds political, doesn't it? It's not. Trust me.

The protagonist, Chemel, is first in an all-alien cast of characters. She's the leader of a scientific team out to spy on the Shree to see what stage of culture the Shree are currently living with. But there are miners there already (big damn surprise, thanks Mr. Title) who kill two of the survey team members and cause the rest of them to have to split up, where they're kidnapped by the Shree. Then the book gets Stockholm-a-rrific.

So, why is the book a -2.4? Well, first of all, it's boring. I mean, I didn't even want to read it. This little 190-page vignette read like it was a 600-page monolith. The all-alien cast seemed at first like it would be fun; instead, it read like everyone was a different breed of European nationalist. Not even, really; French-German interaction would have been more interesting than the interactions between these remarkably homogenous aliens. The Shree, on the other hand, share their literary heritage with the "Yes, bwana" school of writing.

The plot was blah, the characters were blah, their motivations were blah. Killough might have written good books, but this particular one was not worth reading, writing, printing, or even editing. It may have been acceptable as a 60-page novella, but I don't expect that even Joseph Campbell could have turned it into a fun read.


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