Saturday, April 12, 2014

Book Review: The Broken Worlds

Book Review: 'The Broken Worlds' by Raymond Harris

1 / 5 Stars

‘The Broken Worlds’ (248 pp.) was published in August 1986 by Ace Books; the cover artwork is by Ron Miller.

‘Worlds’ was Raymond Harris’s first novel; he published two other sf novels with Ace, ‘Shadows of the White Sun’ (1988) and ‘The Schizogenic Man’ (1990).

The novel is set in the far future, where the Federation has long since dissolved, and the colony worlds go about their business with few thoughts about the other worlds in the galaxy.

Attanio Hwin is a young, affectless musician who performs in the sleazy bars cramming the pleasure district of Parmenio, the Red Light Planet for the known galaxy. After a performance one night, he finds himself befriended by a beautiful off-world woman named Sringle, who travels in the company of Martian mercenaries. 

Beguiled by Sringle, Attanio agrees to help her and her comrades – including a Martian aristocrat named Lord Teoru – steal a life-extending drug from Parmenio’s crime boss. The heist goes off, and Attanio is soon aboard Lord Teoru's spaceship Samuindorogo, where he discovers that the crew he has joined is no simple band of adventurers.

It seems that the Xilians, a humanoid, alien race, have embarked on a campaign of conquest of the known worlds, and Mars has been reduced to a wasteland by their assault. Lord Teoru and his followers are on a mission: recruit the most powerful of the colony worlds, and create a unified fleet, one with the firepower to confront the Xil invasion and stop it – before yet more worlds fall to their assault.

But as Attanio discovers, the colony worlds have little use for aiding a deposed Martian aristocrat……and when Teoru decides to use guile and deceit to gain allies, it’s strategy that brings great risk…….

‘The Broken Worlds’ starts off well enough, as the sort of mildly entertaining 80s space opera that was inspired to some extent by the success of Star Wars. You can’t go wrong with sleazy red light districts, greedy aliens, and laser battles in reeking alleyways.

Unfortunately, at the half-way point, ‘Broken’ turns from being a space opera into a sort of Galactic Travelogue for Gays, as Attanio visits the desert world of Ynenga in the company of Yuzen, a sensitive young Martian warrior. This leads to (wink-wink) a close and growing Friendship (wink-wink) between the two, a relationship aided by intensive study of yoga (wink-wink) within the close quarters of a desert cave – while a massive sandstorm rages outside…... yep, things get that cheesy.

After the desert world of Ynenga cements that Special Frienship between our two heroes, well, it’s off to the water world of Viharn, with its southeast Asian – inspired interior décor, tiki huts, colorful fashions with simply amazing fabrics, delectable foods, heavenly sweet music, and languorous atmosphere…….it’s one big beach party on Viharn !

Needless to say, once the Gay Travelogue material took over, finishing this book was a chore. 

I won’t disclose any spoilers, but I will say that eventually, the narrative slowly re-orients itself to the main plot point and the alarming confrontation with the Xil horde. However, the book’s denouement has a pat, perfunctory quality, as if the author was just looking to wrap things up as economically as possible.

As an example of 80s space opera, 'The Broken Worlds' can be passed by without penalty.

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