I admit, I was taken in by the hype. To my defense, the name 'L. Ron Hubbard' was only vaguely known to me as a recently-deceased past SF great, and 'I admit, I was taken in by the hype. To my defense, the name 'L. Ron Hubbard' was only vaguely known to me as a recently-deceased past SF great, and 'Dianetics' was merely the exploding volcano on throughly-ignored commercials.
The idea of a 10-volume SF epic (and the individual volumes are by no means short) had me skeptical, but I was willing to see what he had to say. A well-orchestrated promotional campaign didn't hurt in the decision (I harp on this some, because I generally consider myself at least somewhat hype-resistant).
The general idea is that there is a vast empire marching steadily towards being a galactic empire. That is, it is the strongest power in the galaxy, but only actually controls a fraction of it. It's march to power was laid out in a master plan some generations ago and has been proceeding smoothly. (Kind of like Asimov's Foundation—which is probably no accident—but this is a detailed, bureaucratic plan, not a generalized, sociological one.)
This plan is threated to be derailed by the fact that Earth, someday to be an important staging point, may well destroy itself via a variety of ills before the empire is due to invade in another 50 years. Rather than change the plan (a bureaucratic no-no), it is decided to send a small covert (that is, unknown to Earth and the empire) team to establish some control of the power structures on Earth, and steer the planet from it's self-destructive course.
The novel is told as a confession by one of the two principles of the mission to the emperor. The character is, let's set this straight right now, scum. He is a scheming, out-for-himself, sycophantic sort who would probably get everyone around him in trouble just so he could climb up the ladder if he wasn't already between a rock and a hard place because of conflicting orders from feuding superiors. The other head of the mission comes out of Hollywood central casting for 'hero': handsome, brilliant, great at whatever he does, honest, and rather naive in the face of imperial court politics.
The first book is devoted entirely to getting the mission put together, outfitted, and on its way. Prying the plot out of the mire it had been stuck in was such a stunning literary achievement that I continued on to the second book. Sadly, it was downhill from there. As Mr. Hero gets to be the one to go out and do things, the viewpoint character turns from someone who at least knew what strings to pull to get things done to mere voyeuristic scum, as he gets to see what the other main character is doing via a bunch of implants (convenient, that). Also convenient is how the implants fail anytime Mr. Hero is about to have sex. Which is pretty often, and absolutely meaningless to the plot. It's rather like a Gor novel with all the titillation removed.
The sad thing is, the basic premise could have worked. Just take out all the plotless fluff (about half the text), tighten up the plot (which might demand removing half of what's left), and it'd be on its way. The next thing would be to refit the characters from two-dimensional constructs in a story that actually has some depth (hidden behind the bloat, sadly).
[Okay, that's a rant I'd forgotten I had inside me.]...more
I heard of it when it came out of course. And a copy was loaned to the household a few years ago. My roommates throughly enjoyed it (I think at leastI heard of it when it came out of course. And a copy was loaned to the household a few years ago. My roommates throughly enjoyed it (I think at least one had read it before, it had just been years).
I puttered around with it in spurts and eventually got about halfway through before putting it down due to ennui.
The story doesn't really grab me, and there wasn't a single character I cared about. Right now, I can barely remember anything about it at all. I can't even remember what I thought of the art.
I know this is considered one of the most important graphic novels of all time. I know it's probably the most important one of the 80s. But I don't know why....more
This particular one is the first one I came across, and probably the best one of the series (not that IGood lord, I'd forgotten all about this series.
This particular one is the first one I came across, and probably the best one of the series (not that I ever read them all).
The general idea is that Danny is a boy very much interested in science who lives with his widowed mother and Professor Bulfinch, who employs Danny's mother as housekeeper. The Professor, of course, serves as a mentor/father-figure as well as the source of all the super-tech devices the books are built around.
It is a credit to the series that the books still felt reasonably current two decades or so after their initial publication. There are places where the science has been superseded (the transistor was apparently not yet invented when this one was written).
This particular one is interesting as the 'invisibility' is via a telepresence machine that looks like a dragonfly. As people don't notice it, it is effectively invisible. The dragonfly is operated with a helmet and gloves that give feedback to what it is seeing and touching, essentially like a virtual reality setup. I was always impressed with the work the author did to come as close to a 'real' solution as he could within the framework of a YA novel....more