Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Book Review: 'Death Hunt On A Dying Planet' by Gary Alan Ruse


2 / 5 Stars

‘Death Hunt On A Dying Planet’ (Signet, 396 pp.) was released in October 1988; the cover illustration is signed by Rakeland.

Coreworld is not a pleasant planet. It has been ravaged by plague, its cities are crumbling beds of unrest and violence, and its politics are controlled by the Corporation, an immoral outfit that seeks to bring all economic and social activity under its purview. Orbiting Coreworld is the derelict starship Glory, from whence the planet’s colonists came 700 years ago.

Elsewhere in the solar system containing Coreworld, a group of intellectuals have fled Corporation hegemony to establish a city on a moon of the planet Logres. Avalon shelters the University, a bastion of freedom, and the spiritual and technological center of resistance to the Corporation.

When a distress signal suddenly emanates from the Glory, the University sends Vandal, a cyborg soldier of fortune, and his robot assistant Roddi, to investigate. It turns out that there is a secret chamber aboard the Glory, and within the chamber, deep in cryosleep, is a member of the ship’s original crew: a young woman named Marinda Donelson. Donelson is a gifted biologist and someone who may be able to devise a cure for the plague ravaging Coreworld. 

The Corporation wants Doctor Donelson for its own reasons, and launches an intense effort to wrest her from Vandal and Roddi, who, along with Marinda, find themselves stranded in the desert regions of Coreworld. As Corporation forces close in on them, Vandal, Roddi, and Marinda must struggle to stay one step ahead of their pursuers as they flee across the dangerous landscape of Coreworld, a landscape occupied by lethal robots, crazed mutants, and bloodthirsty nomads. 

Can Vandal, Roddi, and Marinda succeed in finding away off Coreworld and to Avalon ? Or will the Corporation mercenaries and assassins find them first ?

‘Death Hunt’ is definitely not a major work of science fiction. The plot is not particularly original, sharing elements with any number of 80s low-budget sci-fi films, like ‘Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone’, ‘The Ice Pirates’, ‘Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome’, and ‘Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn’. 

Author Gary Alan Ruse is not a particularly accomplished prose stylist. Practically all of his verbs are accompanied by an adverb; characters don’t just speak words, they say them grimly, jokingly, drily, softly, playfully, wanly, weakly, and sometimes with….'inward sighs’. 

Cliched metaphors and similes pop up regularly (Brows are Knitted, etc.) and there are more than a few passages suffering from awkward syntax, or dialogue that is too cheesy for its own good.

But the narrative moves along at a good clip, fueled by goofy energy and plenty of plot contrivances, including the participation of a team of ‘Transformers’ – style robots.

‘Death Hunt’ will appeal to those readers comfortable with a story that sacrifices literary ambitions for B-movie thrills.

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