Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Book Review: 'Sandworld' by Richard A. Lupoff


2 / 5 Stars


‘Sandworld’ (188 pp.) was published by Berkley in 1976; the cover artist is uncredited.
It’s a dark and stormy night in northern California. San Quentin prison convicts ‘Red’ O’Reilly, Bennie Nebayan, and Willie B. Hutkin are being driven to a courthouse in San Fran by prison guard Marc Mauriello. Along for the ride is civil rights monitor and ACLU attorney Alice Michaelson. After a particularly intense bolt of lightning strikes the pavement in the vicinity of their car, the group are stunned to discover that they have somehow been teleported to the surface of a planet located light-years from the Milky Way galaxy.
The planet (facetiously dubbed ‘Else’) is a desert planet, and our heroes are forced to undertake a trek across the trackless wastes in search of water. Along the way they become aware that someone – or something – is watching them. It turns out the planet is home to a race of aliens who consume the blood and soft tissues of their victims: a race of ‘vampires’.
Red O’Reilly takes on the role of leader as the group struggles to survive the nighttime attacks of the bloodthirsty aliens. When they enter the ruins of a once-great city, will they find a way to escape the vampires  and return home to Earth ? Or do even worse perils await them as they explore the long- dead culture of a depleted planet ?
Richard Lupoff authored a large number of novels and short stories during the late 60s and 70s, many in the pulp style, and thus was potentially well-qualified for this effort at an Old School SF adventure. However, ‘Sandworld’ fails to live up to the billing announced on its back cover: ‘A novel of high adventure, action, and fantastic imagination.’
The narrative moves very slowly as the author belabors the psychological turmoil experienced by the inadvertent space travelers, and devotes excessive text to angry exchanges between the erstwhile prisoners and their jailor. In fact, the ‘vampires’ doesn’t even make an appearance until 50 pages into the book, and it’s nearly another 70 pages before our heroes actually come to grips with their stalkers. If there is one thing a suspense or adventure novel can’t afford to do, it’s to dissipate too much energy on exposition; the thrills and twists have to come, and come fast, or the reader loses interest.
Unfortunately,  ‘Sandworld’ don't offer much in the way of excitement, and comes across as a diffident effort at best by Lupoff. Unless you are a completist for obscure 70s SF novels, this one can be avoided without penalty.

1 comment:

sciencefictionruminations said...

The cover is, without doubt, the work of Lehr.... Stylistically the same as his others...