Wednesday 11 March 2020

Space Ark - Thomas Huschman (1981)

Rating: Mediocre

After the intense intellectual stimulation of Slavoj Zizek I needed something light and easy, so I reached for Space Ark (say it loud with lots of echo...), a book I found in a curio shop in Mt Barker in the heart of the south west of Australia, the kind of shop that sells all the stuff your grandma had plus records and books. As I had hoped Space Ark is pure pulp science fiction and was thoroughly relaxing and entertaining. They really don't write them like this anymore; I doubt any novels in recent decades would open with the lines: "Morning sunlight streamed in through the big cathedral windows. Twenty mental retards were at play on the smooth, polished floor." Three hundred years in humanity's future a scientist with the snappy name of Centaurus has discovered that a nearby supernova will shortly decimate Earth, but when he reports this to the Earth system president, Hassim Dupre, he is locked up and the information is suppressed. Hubschman makes a point of revealing how the powers that be distrust what the science says in order to protect the status quo of their power hungry and corrupt government - sounds familiar? Replace climate change with the supernova and you have a pulp science fiction novel for our times.

Centaurus is rescued from his incarceration by one of the mental retards (who's just faking it...) and is given a lift on a makeshift space ark, complete with animals and a leader who is actually a Simminoid, an ape who has been given human hands and has had human DNA spliced into his makeup to make him into an intelligent slave (this is a thing three hundred years from now). Of course they leave in the nick of time, only to discover that they are being pursued by Dupre and his military space ships. The novel basically becomes a sometimes tense chase narrative and as these kinds of stories go it is entertaining enough. What lets the novel down is its rather simple dialogue and a narrative that is light on explication. The space ark travels "...away from the sun at better than the speed of light-quite a bit better...", but no attempt is made to explain how this is done. Elsewhere it is indicated that Einstein's theory of relativity has been superseded, apparently by the return of Newtonian theories! Towards the novel's denouement a hopeless situation is rectified by an ex machina plot device that is cliched to say the least. This leads to an ending with mystical overtones that I both appreciated and groaned about. I'm probably being a bit unfair with my rating for Space Ark, as it provided me with great entertainment, but when comparing it to other great science fiction novels and writers it suffers in comparison, so my Simminoid hand is forced.

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