Monday, May 03, 2010

A little old school scifi

The other day Harris wrote about books you are supposed to like but just don't. He was talking about literary fiction, but the same holds for science fiction. Two books (and series) I just could not get into were Zelazny's Amber books and Robert Silverberg's Lord Valentine's Castle. The thing is, I love the giant multi volume fantasy novels, but I can rarely stick with multivolume scifi and these two didn't work at all.

Thanks to a Powells display, I did pick up a Silverberg book that I did like. The Book of Skulls is dated but reasonably well written and engaging. Set in the early 70s and populated by earnest philosophically minded college students, the book nearly collapses under the weight of bullshit. The short length and the tensions between the characters keeps it going.

The premise is that one of the four mismatched college roommates (one neurotic Jew, one mincing gay, one bronzed Midwesterner and one aloof aristocrat ---stereotype much?) discover the possibility that a cult can teach them how to live forever. The catch is that four men (and note the emphasis on men) can enter, but only two leave. One has to commit suicide and another must be murdered by the other two. Therein lies the book's tension.

While I think male readers will like the book, I think female readers will not. Most scifi of the period was male centric, but this one is is almost anti-female. Not because of the extensive focus on gay relationships, but because all of the women in the book are portrayed negatively or anti-humanely. The women serve only to hinder our heroes from gaining wisdom or as objects for their learning. Come to think of it, this might really put off male readers too.


Brack said...

I suppose I shouldn't get you started on John Norman's Chronicles of Gor.

Tripp said...

I think that would be best.

Anonymous said...

I thought the Amber books dragged as well, but Zelazny's Lord of Light was one of the best science fiction books I've read - right up there with Dick and Bester (which sounds like a TV show on South Park). Steve

Tripp said...

Lord of Light was great, which makes the Amber books all that much stranger. Is it harder to tell the multivolume sci fi tale?