Stefan's Reviews > A Desert Called Peace

A Desert Called Peace by Tom Kratman
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Apr 22, 09

bookshelves: science-fiction
Read in January, 2009, read count: 1

** spoiler alert ** If you can get past the blatant racism, sexism and homophobia in this book, and you don't mind that it's really just a mediocre war novel posing as SF, it's almost readable. Unfortunately, those two flaws are so glaring that, in the end, I have to consider this one of the single worst SF novels I have read in my life.

Let me skip the values issue for now and start with explaining why this is a war novel posing as SF. The story is set on Terra Nova, an earth-like planet that was colonized about 500 years before the start of the story. Earth has shipped parts of the population of most countries to this planet. These then conveniently settled in areas similar to where they lived on Earth, even generally maintaining the same neighbors. So, for example, "Volga" are the Russians, "Sumer" is Iraq, "Farsia" is Iran, and so on. In an amazing feat of imagination, the continent on which the EU settles is shaped somewhat like a bull, so naturally it's called "Tauros" and the "Tauran Union". Next, the author comes up some nonsensical reason why this planet only has technology equivalent to that of Earth in the early 21st century (despite the fact that 25th century technology was used to settle it). Then, for some odd reason, every country still appears to have the exact same political and religious values and affiliations as they did in the 21st century. So, conveniently, Sumer/Iraq is ruled by a vicious dictator who doesn't like the FS (Federated States) much after the "Oil War" of a few years ago. At the start of the story, Pashtia (Afghanistan) organizes a terrorist attack that brings down a big skyscraper in the FS (on 7/11 of course). This leads to war with Pashtia and, later on, Sumer, although in this version of history, Sumer actually did have weapons of mass destruction. The wife of main character and ex-military Patrick Hennessy was in the skyscraper that came down, so he swears vengeance, puts together an army (with 21st century technology of course) and wages war on Iraq - sorry, Sumer.
I found all of this really depressing. To me, SF is the literature of ideas and innovation. New inventions. Exciting technology. Sociological experiments. It's the future, everything is possible! Instead, in this book, you basically get a lukewarm version of the present day. Zero creativity. How sad.

So, in terms of the values: the author, politically speaking, appears to be somewhat to the right of Rush Limbaugh. I imagine his target audience are people like Donald Rumsfeld, who probably would get off on reading some of this nonsense. It's hard to choose where to begin. Kratman displays an ongoing and deep disdain for anything liberal and progressive. Almost every progressive character in the novel is a sniveling idiot. The main one, charmingly, is assassinated while giving BJ's in the bathroom of a gay club. The poisonous plants and weed on Terra Nova have names like "progressivines" and "bolsheweeds". Organizations such as Amnesty Interplanetary are run by gullible incompetents. The biggest culprit is of course the UEPF (United Earth Peace Fleet -- basically the UN), which is not only useless and corrupt but also actively out to harm the sovereignty of every state. They actually sponsor some of the terrorist acts against the FS. One of their former leaders, a descendant of Kofi Annan, is at some point shown hunting for female slaves in the colonist population. What else? Oh, the press! The press is of course evil (the main character frequently refers to them as the enemy) and tries to discredit the FS army whenever it can. At some point a Global News Network (GNN) crew tries to fake evidence of atrocities by moving corpses around and so on. They later help the leader of the Sumerian insurgency escape, and are of course executed.
Remember that army Hennessy is putting together? Guess how many women are in it? Wait, no, I'm wrong --- there are a couple of female housekeepers and secretaries, one of whom of course falls in love with Our Hero. Every one else is male, and the women are mainly there to have babies and service the men. (Edit: I just realize I forgot to mention the contingent of "whores" that are there to service the men.)
And then there's the racism. It's not just limited to calling Arabs "wogs" at several instances throughout the book: almost every ethnic group in this book is reduced to the very crudest stereotype.

What else... Well, there are no rounded characters to speak of - they're all one-dimensional caricatures. The plot is horribly predictable. The characters occasionally burst out in paragraph-long "lecture" dialogues about the virtues of a specific type of tank, the law of war or the necessity of torture. Still, I could forgive those comparably minor flaws if not for all the other issues I described above.

If Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter had a child, home-schooled it, and fed it a constant diet of war movies and Fox News, it might come up with a novel like this one by the time it was 14 or so. I still can't believe I read the entire 975 pages of this crap!
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Comments (showing 1-8 of 8) (8 new)

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message 1: by Sandi (new)

Sandi How did you manage 975 pages? It sounds like something I would have thrown through the window.


message 2: by Nancy (new)

Nancy Great review, Stefan. I'll definitely give this one a pass.

I admire your patience and fortitude.


message 3: by mark (new)

mark monday excellent review.


message 4: by Fayley (new)

Fayley The author spent many years in the army, which reflects poorly on the culture of the armed forces.


message 5: by Laylah (new)

Laylah ouch. GR's recommendations algorithm thought I might like this one -- I'm really glad you'd provided this review so I could steer clear of this disaster.


message 6: by Tom (new)

Tom Kratman Yawn.


message 7: by Ignacy (new)

Ignacy Tom, I hope that you are aware just how childish your reaction is?


message 8: by Tom (new)

Tom Kratman Yawn.


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