Sunday, September 25, 2005

Dumb Patriotism, Blind Rebellion: Robert Silverberg, Revolt on Alpha C (New York: Scholastic, 1963)

Oh dear. Do you remember my assertion back in January that most of the best children's and YA sf of the 1940s-1950s was written by writers of the adult sf genre? Well, this "proves" my rule. Bob Silverberg, one of the finest writers in the field, has this absolute stinker to his credit.

In this book Larry Stark finishes his cadet training for the Space Patrol., passes out first and is invited to take a berth on the overdrive ship the Carden, headed for Alpa C. There turns out to be a revolution brewing, and Larry ends up picking the side of the settlers and staying.

In the hands of Heinlein, even with exactly the same plot, and exactly the same nauseating reminders that "You're from America, and this revolution doesn't mean anything to you!...(88) and the use of the slogan, No Taxation Without Representation*, this would have been a rivetting novel, instead one just wonders that anyone as stupid and racist as Larry (whose name turns out to be Lao Tze by the way, which is a nice touch) could have got into space.

Larry is the son of a Commander and lot of the justification of Larry is centered around what his Dad has told him, and an injunction to stay away from politics and from greasemonkeys (or tubemonkeys as they are called here). Only the brutality of his commander actually drives Larry to the revolutionaries. There are constant injunctions on him by his roommate to read revolutionary literature, but he never does, and he simply moves from swallowing Earth propaganda about independence being on the way when the colonies are read, to swallowing colony propaganda about autarky.

Just to add to the problems, everything is delivered as a download. In one case Larry actually asks for help with his homework.

One final stupidity: Larry wrecks the ship's radio and steals the valve. OK so far. But in the very last scene he smashes it, as a symbol of giving up Earth. That valve may very well be the only spare for several million light years.

*a note to the successfully propagandized... the Boston Tea-Party happened after the tax was cut.


Post a Comment

<< Home