Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Deathworld, by Harry Harrison

I like Harry Harrison's Stainless Steel Rat series, so when I saw Deathworld, I decided to pick it up. It's an omnibus edition containing the first three Deathworld novels and a short story (there are apparently four other novels in the series, but they were written for the Russian market and have never been translated into English). Sadly, this book was kind of disappointing. The first novel was great. The second was terrible. The third was mediocre.

The first novel, tells how Jason dinAlt came to the planet Pyrrus, where every living creature is against humanity. Jason is a professional gambler, and he goes to Pyrrus after helping win the Pyrrans a billion bucks, so they can buy weapons. He goes to Pyrrus to prove how manly he is and ends up helping to solve their problems through reason.

In the second novel, Jason is kidnapped by a moralistic do-gooder. The guy's spaceship crashes on a primitive world and the two are taken into slavery. Somehow--despite the fact that he was raised in a feudal world, had little or no formal education, never learned to read until he was 15, and spent his adult life as a gambler--Jason has an unbelievable grasp of science and technology. He improves on the local cars, builds a radio transmitter and receiver, knows how to make sulfuric acid, improves the local metallurgy, and shows a basic knowledge of electrical generators and oil refineries. Jason also proves to be a bit of a dick when he starts a war to try and "civilize" the planet.

He's an even bigger dick in the third novel. There he starts a war, resulting in the loss of many innocent lives, so he can start a mining operation on another primitive planet. I'm sorry, but by the third novel I hated this guys guts.

Sure, the book has lots of action, which is always good. Unfortunately, I found parts of the book to unbelievable, even for SF, and I couldn't stand the main character. Still, since novel number one was so good, I'll give Deathworld an above average rating. It gets a barely above average three and a half yo-yos.

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