New America

Atlas Shrugged... in SPAAAAACE

New America

by Poul Anderson

What page I survived until: 157 (though keep in mind, this is a collection of four novellas that add up to a lager story, with two novellas and an essay as “a special bonus.” I finished the primary story and let the rest of it rot. Apparently something in the bonus material won a Hugo. I’m currently trying to figure out who Poul Anderson had to pleasure under the table to get that award if he writes anything like the primary story)

Boredom: 450 out of 500 video game breaks

Needless Description: 500 out of 500 meditative epiphanies on a petunia

Cruddy Metaphors: 75 out of 500 cats on the hot tin penis of my soul

Thematically, Just Plain Wrong: 175 out of 500 skinheads setting endangered rhinos on fire

The gist of it: Americans are so very oppressed by the evil commie liberal government, to the point of going to a planet called Rustum to flee from them.

What better to start off my journey into the Library of Agony than a Libertarian strawman argument in the clever disguise of a space opera? (I’m not a fan of Libertarianism, but I’ll keep my opinions in that regard out of this)

From the cover, it looks like the tale of a redneck space marine going on an adventure into the alien unknown with the strength of the colonial minutemen by his side. Now, I don’t own an American flag, nor do I call myself a redneck, nor do I believe Obama was the son of an Iranian family on the moon. But hey, space opera, can’t go wrong with that, right?

Well, let me put it this way: in a space opera, I want physical conflict. Not necessarily a guy deciding that his middle finger is a Nazi and that’s why he flips off Russian space marines against his will, although that would prove interesting. I mean punching, kicking, slashing, slapping, blowing-up-the-shit-out-of, “Jedi fire drills” (When you get out of your landspeeder at a red light, throw your lightsaber at a stormtrooper, make out with a Twi’lek hooker, then force-grab the lightsaber back and drive off before the light goes green), and entire planets exploding. Granted, you can bend the rules and make a peaceful story, but you have to have a good reason for doing so, because space is a frickin’ dangerous place.

This is the kind of science fiction where… nobody gets hurt by anyone else. A character named O’Malley gets a broken arm from a fall, but that’s it.

So, how is the conflict done? Let me give you an idea:

“What you mean is, you’d like to do certain things, and can’t do them without High American help. You might wish for an up-to-date flour mill, for instance, instead of a waterwheel or windmill– or instead of selling your wheat here and buying back part of it, as bread, at a considerable markup. Yes, surely. The fact is, however, I regret it very much, but the fact is you will simply have to do without until there’s enough machinery available to bring the rental or purchase price down. Meanwhile, you can be self-sufficient. And nobody is pointing a gun at your head forcing you to overproduce.”

See that? It’s a heated argument that goes on for six pages like that, filled with text bricks about the prices of wheat. That’s literally how he thinks people fight in space.

I'm pretty sure that this is what the Podlings from The Dark Crystal saw when they got their life sucked out of them.

The story culminates in a final chapter where it’s revealed that the evil commie government is headed to Rustum to colonize the planet. In about forty years. So, yeah, we’re not going to hear about what happens. Instead, let’s focus on something more exciting… like moderated debates! This is how you make a climax in science fiction, kids: polite political discourse.

Did I mention what the main character, Danny Cofffin, is like? I haven’t seen this much whiny introspection since I played Kingdom Hearts. And this is before JRPGs – these stories were first published in the 1970’s. (So before you go blame Japan for emo characters like Cloud, Squall, Sora, Lightning, and who knows who else – you could almost say they were only trying to imitate western culture.) We get tons of “blah blah blah, he thought, blah blah. …blah.” We know he feels bad about stuff, but we are not Danny’s therapist, we are his audience. It’s like the opposite of a self-help book, where you have to listen to his problems.

In short, I wasn’t aware being bored to death was a viable method of carrying out a murder. Now I am. I can feel my eyes trying to turn inside out having read through this vapid steer dung.

Avoid. At all costs. If you have to cut off your hands to avoid reading this, then do so.

…but that won’t be hard, considering it’s scarcely available anymore.

Next up: I review Dancer of Gor. I’m aware the Gor series has a dedicated fanbase, to which I reply with this apology: come at me, bro.

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