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Perseus Spur, 1998
Fans of Julian May's stunning Pliocene Exile series or her Galactic Milieu novels may be disappointed with this first volume of "The Rampart Worlds." Here there are no picturesque evocations of complex societies founded on the exercise of extrasensorial powers, no cast of dozens of highly developed characters, no fascinating subplots, no delving into theology and psychology, no adventurous writing style such as distinguished books like The Non-Born King and The Adversary. No Aiken Drum, no Felice, no Marc Remillard. At least not yet. Perhaps, as the Rampart World series continues, May might still surprise us.
What we seem to have here is a breezy space-opera, a kind of dim reflection of Stephen Donaldson's powerful "Gap" series. Our hero, Asahel Frost, who slums around on a remote planet of the Perseus Spur under the monicker Helmut Icicle, is a social reject who has been "thrown away" -- deprived of his franchise in an interplanetary society ruled by giant commercial consortiums in rivalry with one another. He had been accused of misconduct and was unable to prove his innocence.
But all is not lost. Icicle unexpectedly becomes the target of a bizarre attempt to remove him permanently from circulation by having a giant sea-toad literally devour his ramshackle house. When he goes chasing after the villain responsible, he ends up marooned on a cometary core. Not to worry. One of his disreputable space-pirate friends charges to the rescue. Meanwhile his sister Eve has disappeared and only Icicle can help his father investigate. The father, Simon Frost, is none other than the Chairman and CEO of Rampart, one of the most prominent of the ruling corporations.
Describing the plot further would only spoil the book for potential readers. There is nothing of interest in Perseus Spur except what happens. Forget characterization. Forget style. It's just pure action all the way. The pace is headlong. Out of one danger and on pell-mell to the next. Improbable last-minute escapes and stalwart coping against all odds. Any aliens? Sure. The hostile Haluk would like to acquire human genetic material for their nefarious purposes.
The whole thing reads like the hasty script of a grade-B movie that's got to be shot fast on a shoestring budget. But there is a bit more to it than immediately meets the eye. In its manic way Perseus Spur is a send-up of science-fiction in its early days and its reckless, light-hearted, warp-speed-ahead storyline has moments of humour and suspense. But no irony underscores the parodic elements and the reader really has either to take this tale on face value or leave it alone.
© Wordreign, July 1999
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