I was excited to read what I thought would be some first-rate escapist fiction. Not only does the jacket flap promise government-run battles-to-the-deI was excited to read what I thought would be some first-rate escapist fiction. Not only does the jacket flap promise government-run battles-to-the-death, but it's written by Pierre Boulle—the guy who gave us Planet of the Apes. What could go wrong?
As it turns out: everything.
The old writing adage about "Show, don't tell" never reached Boulle—or is it possible that this is an incredibly botched translation? The entire book is written passively, with long explanations of the setting-up of a new, science-based world order. There's rarely any dialogue. Names are mentioned, but without any insight into what the people are feeling or thinking, I hesitate to call them "characters." The whole book is a lot like listening to someone tell about a workday in tedious detail, while referring to people you don't know.
By the time the book gets to the goods—the death battles—almost 3/4 of the book has elapsed. There are some fantastic ideas here, and some brutal deaths, but by this time, there's no reason to care, and again, the descriptions of the battles are passive, sucking out a lot of the excitement.
This was a real struggle to finish, and a huge disappointment. I feel as if, rather than reading a novel, I've read someone's lengthy description of how he wanted his novel to unfold. ...more