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Space Vulture 73

stoolpigeon writes "In 1953 John Myers brought his friend Gary Wolf a book he had just read, Space Hawk by Anthony Gilmore. The two were already avid readers but this would be their introduction to an entire genre, Science Fiction. They both say that it was Space Hawk that sparked a life long love of all things Sci-Fi. According to both of them, they had an opportunity to re-read it as adults and found that it had not weathered the years well. They decided they would write their own science fiction adventure in the same style, but do a better job. The result is their book Space Vulture." Keep reading for the rest of JR's review.
Space Vulture
author Gary K. Wolf and Archbishop John J. Myers
pages 333
publisher Tor
rating 3/10
reviewer JR Peck
ISBN 978-0-7653-1852-0
summary Sizable plot holes and inconsistencies
As is evident in the title alone, Space Vulture leans much more in the direction of paying direct homage to the work that inspired it, rather than offering something in the same vein but different. There are many more similarities between the books than their are differences. This seems to be at odds with the author's stated goal of doing a better job. What we get instead of improvement is nostalgia and a throw back to the style and content of the author's childhood. Seen in that light, for those who wish to go back to those days, this is probably a great ride. They can get a new story, in the old format. The issue for newer readers is that they don't have the nostalgia to gloss over the stories issues.

I started reading science fiction in elementary school in the late seventies. I moved out of the kids section of the library in the early eighties and tore through anything I could get my hands on. This means that I read a lot of science fiction that was written in the fifties and even further back in some cases. Many books that are still favorites today come from that era. That is what drew me to Space Vulture. As I read it though, I found myself caught off guard. I could not recall reading anything like this, even as a kid. Then it hit me. The books I've read from the fifties are the cream of the crop. They are the classics that I am sure will continue to be read for years to come. Space Hawk and others like it do not fall into this category and now I know why.

The characters of Space Vulture are flat and unbelievable. I would say they are cartoonish but many of today's cartoons provide a much richer experience than is found in this book. The villain is Space Vulture. An evil, beautiful, genius. He enjoys rape, murder and slavery. He operates throughout the galaxy capturing innocents to sell as slaves or food. Everyone who would stand up to Space Vulture is either unwilling or incapable of doing so. He is the scourge of the galaxy, with his private army of aliens and humans carrying out his will without any choice.

There is one exception to those who tremble in fear of Space Vulture. It is Galactic Marshal Captain Victor Corsaire. In every way that Vulture is bad, Corsaire is good. Criminals everywhere tremble at Corsaire's name. He has an unbending code of moral conduct and even in the face of a corrupt and ineffective justice system, Corsaire single handedly brings what peace and safety there is in the universe. The entire book turns on Vulture and Corsaire, though we have a single mom, a couple precocious kids, a shifty con-man and a handful of aliens and such to round things out.

The book reads like the cereal style stories it imitates. In the short time frame it covers, the hero is captured, escapes, gets recaptured, escapes, etc. multiple times. The side plots are filled with narrow escapes and cliff hangers. And it all feels rather like a carnival ride. Characters do what they do because that is the function they fill in the story. There is little ambiguity and very rarely do the actions of characters feel like something that comes as a result of their being a person. They are all set pieces going through the motions that create the ride. So it seems to really boil down to the question, "Do you like this kind of ride?" It seems to me that the only people who are going to really enjoy it are those who have fond memories of going on the same ride as children.

With one of the co-authors being an archbishop, it seems only fair to consider how religion fits into the book. The previously mentioned single mother prays a lot. There is not much over the head religious reference otherwise. Myers and Wolf seemed to have steered clear of any heavy handed dealing with religious issues. At times this is a bit of a weakness. Once again, the hero does what is right because it is. The villain will do evil and there is no effort to dig into what might separate the two. There are opportunities that would be perfect to dig a little deeper but no effort was made to do so. This is probably in keeping with the style and format they are emulating. It's also probably a part of the reason that you don't find people still reading the older works.

While the religious angle isn't pushed there are some anachronisms that do come out that I think would have been better dropped. The most noticeable was the heroin's apparent inability to do much for herself. She's not completely useless all the time, and she does make small efforts here and there, but other times she just sits on the side lines and watches events unfold. How a frontier living leader could be so ineffective at times just breaks one out of the story. I guess she can't show up Corsair or interfere with his heroic scenes. I'm sure in the fifties this would have been an outright progressive portrayal of a woman but today it still comes across as sexist and demeaning.

There are sizable plot holes and inconsistencies. The ending is not going to surprise anyone. I'm not all that bright and I had everything nailed down by half way through the book. Really the bright spot for younger readers is that it may be bad enough to come across as campy, but to be honest I doubt it. For anyone who was reading Space Hawk as a kid, there is that nostalgia factor. I almost rated this a four because of those folks, but I just couldn't do it. There are just too many good books still around from that time that will provide all the fun but with better writing and plot.

You can purchase Space Vulture from Slashdot welcomes readers' book reviews -- to see your own review here, read the book review guidelines, then visit the submission page.


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Space Vulture

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  • The most noticeable was the heroin's apparent inability to do much ...

    Maybe you should try a heavier dose next time you're chasing the dragon [] while reading? If you can't even enjoy it on smack, this book's got no chance.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by stoolpigeon ( 454276 ) *

      Nice catch. Believe it or not I reread these a few times before I submit.

      • by _xeno_ ( 155264 )

        While we're bashing about typos and grammar:

        There are many more similarities between the books than their are differences.

        That should be "there" - just like at the start of the sentence.


        The issue for newer readers is that they don't have the nostalgia to gloss over the stories issues.

        That'd be "story's" since it's possessive, not plural.

        And finally:

        Believe it or not I reread these a few times before I submit.

        That should be submitted, as it happened in the past. I'd actually go with "submitted them" since I think it reads better. Also, I'm not sure why "these" and not "this" but I suppose you could mean the comment along with the review.

        I'm done nitpicking. Might as well get it out of my system, especially because I can't write or spell

        • Your final nit might have been mispicked.

          When the OP wrote 'I reread these', it's possible he was not talking about the specific review that he had just submitted, he was talking about his general habit of reading his reviews before he submits them. Read his sentence again and change the pronunciation of 'reread' and you'll see what I mean.


          • I have nit with you, which I would like to pick. :-)

            It is called "pedantry".

            For everybody not particularly well-informed, I'd like to disclose that the isomorphism in the words Heroin and Heroine are no accident of lexicography. Heroin is a Swiss-German coinage, referring to the heroic sensations early-stage, low-level intoxication gave to the subjects at Aktiengesellschaft Farbenfabriken - later to be known as Bayer.

            There are more exotic derivations, erroneously posited for the naming of the drug - includ

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by LaminatorX ( 410794 )

      There seems to be s serial pattern of homophone substitutions in the review.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by stoolpigeon ( 454276 ) *

        Goodness - that's even worse - how embarrassing. I have that same feeling I get when I'm looking at code and think, "Who wrote this junk and why did they do it so poorly?" and then realize it was me.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Tetsujin ( 103070 )

        There seems to be s serial pattern of homophone substitutions in the review.

        Yeah, what's the author got against gays, anyway?

    • by svyyn ( 530783 )

      The book reads like the cereal style stories it imitates.

      I assumed he was dripping the the heroin on his cereal instead of smoking. Or maybe the book was emulating the exploits of Toucan Sam and his Loops of Froot? I'm baffled.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by jollyreaper ( 513215 )

      The book reads like the cereal style stories it imitates.

      Once again Space Vulture is after the hero's lucky charms.

  • Well, there's your problem. You never get deep stories with your cereal. You just get fluff ad copy, an occasional prize inside, and a lot of sugary sweet filler without much substance (unless it's Fiber One or something, in which case reverse that last bit).

    On the other hand, perhaps I should just put some flow control on my proverbial cereal port and ignore that bit. ;)

  • by erroneus ( 253617 ) on Wednesday May 20, 2009 @03:05PM (#28029463) Homepage

    I'm sure when the image of the book cover is full sized, it looks like whatever image it is. But when it is lacking details due to its shrunken thumbnail size it rather looks like a flacid penis from the side.

  • Some books age well, others don't.

    Go read a Heinlein and it's still enjoyable in most cases. Some SF is outdating itself rapidly, but can be seen as a historical document. Especially short-lived is the books that plays on the political landscape. That is one of the things where 2001 was failing, but aside from that it's still a great story and movie!

    It may have been more interesting to depict a despisable and sad character as the main character of the book.

    And vultures are the garbage collectors of nature.

  • Hmm... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by idontgno ( 624372 ) on Wednesday May 20, 2009 @03:10PM (#28029541) Journal

    Maybe I'm naive. (OK, not "maybe".) And maybe I'm forgetful. (Well, again, that's more a certainty than a likelihood.)

    But this is the first media review I've read here that wasn't poorly-disguised marketing. Unless it's some kind of bizarre, reverse-psychology viral marketing.

    In which case it fails, because it doesn't generate enough "rubberneckers-gawking-at-the-freeway-crash" curiosity to make me want to buy the book.

    So. A negative book review. What's next, a moratorium on dupes?

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by stoolpigeon ( 454276 ) *

      I can't speak for anyone else - but I can say that in my case my reviews are more positive than negative but it's not because of the reasons you seem to think.

      I only write reviews when I want to - and usually I'm more inclined to do so with books that I'm interested in and think others may enjoy. If I really don't like a book I'm much less inclined to put in the time and effort of writing a review.

      When I finish a really good book I immediately want to recommend it to others. When I read a book I'm not exc

      • by Quirkz ( 1206400 )
        I'd say that's a pretty fair reason to review a book. I hadn't heard about it, but the concept of remaking a childhood favorite to make it better sounds pretty intriguing, and I might have been tempted to check it out. If the review can tell me to avoid it (or, perhaps, skim a chapter in the library just to see how it goes), that's a valuable service.
  • Why does the cover look like a man's dick again?
  • Sorry, pet peve.
    /I slay me.
    //I love slashies, too!

  • From the review:
    The most noticeable was the heroin's apparent inability to do much for herself.

    heroine - chief female character in a story, play, etc.
    heroin - narcotic drug
    Sigh. Need to do better proofreading, JR Peck.
  • by elrous0 ( 869638 ) * on Wednesday May 20, 2009 @03:39PM (#28029965)

    I've never heard of either of the authors (and I'm a science fiction fan). And every year hundreds of science fiction novels are published by actual well-known and respected authors that don't get reviewed on /.

    Is there a legitimate reason this is here, or is this just a slashvertisement?

    • by DLPierson ( 8772 )

      I wish it had been here before I finally succumbed to curiosity and bought this piece of junk. It's really, truly awful. The worst excuse for a book I've bought in quite a while -- and I buy a lot of books.

    • by stoolpigeon ( 454276 ) * <bittercode@gmail> on Wednesday May 20, 2009 @04:12PM (#28030497) Homepage Journal

      Because you haven't submitted any others I guess.

      As for slashvertisement - yes Tor payed me a ton to write a negative review of their book.

      Of course that wouldn't even involve slashdot - so I guess what must have really happened is that Tor payed Slashdot to use mind control to get my friend to loan me his copy (He liked the book by the way, but I'm still letting him be my friend.) Then they took control of my mind so that I would read the book followed by writing and submitting a negative review. This upsets me greatly, not the mind control as much as the fact that I don't even get a cut of the money.

      Thank goodness you figured it out and I can finally be set free from my review inducing overlords.

      • Mind control? And you didn't get your cut? That's a drag. Next time your friend tries to do that to you, at least make sure he's willing to buy a few rounds at the local bar so you can at least get some payback.

        To be honest, I wish /. would feature more SF. I am much more likely to pick up some fiction than the lately Ruby of Rails rag.

        Though to be really honest, I wish /. would feature a review of my SF book, 2076 []. I've still got a couple more edits to do before the publication date latest this ye

        • I don't know for sure, I don't watch the firehose close enough, but I'm going to guess more non-fiction reviews are submitted than fiction reviews. So when you say you wish slashdot would feature more SF - I'm thinking maybe they would if more SF reviews were submitted. Not all the non-fiction reviews I submit get posted to the front page - but the few fiction I've done were all accepted I think.

          As for your book - have someone read it, write a review and submit it. I am way behind on reading right now -

    • by Bigbutt ( 65939 )

      Because someone decided to review and submit the review? There may be hundreds of great books but if no one reviews them (well past Amazon maybe), then they won't get posted.

      And Science Fiction is something I like to read so a review is interesting.

      I'll have to check the submission requirements and throw one out for a good one I recently read :)


    • Just assume all the other books are good, what could possibly go wrong?
    • Is there a legitimate reason this is here, or is this just a slashvertisement?

      I'm rather curious about that, too.

      Actually, I liked the review, thought it was interesting, liked the fact that it wasn't merely an advertisement... but I'm not sure why this particular book was reviewed on Slashdot, and not two or three dozen other SF books that are, frankly, more noteworthy.

      • Anyone can write and submit a review to Slashdot. I am a regular user here, just like you. The only difference between submitting a book review and any other submission is that when you choose "Book Reviews" for the section and hit preview- there will be new fields to fill in for author, isbn, etc.

        There is the whole review guideline page linked above that gives information about the practical side of all this.

        But I don't interact with the Slashdot editors about what books I'll be reviewing. Not all my re

  • That's the one about the gang of motorcycle enthusiasts who ride around killing mine workers with their bike-mounted concussion grenade launchers, right? Maybe I'm thinking of something else...
  • "There are many more similarities between the books than their are differences."

    Parser error, line 9: near "than".
    Compilation aborted.

    • Fuck, another shitty parser that tells you what the error is next to, but not where it is? It's like perl all over again.

      • Fuck, another shitty parser that tells you what the error is next to, but not where it is? It's like perl all over again.

        This is what happens when you make your language syntax flexible and comfortable without regard for the difficulty it causes for automated tools trying to interpret it. :D

        • I just noticed your car analogy sig, by the way. Fine job.

          Here in my basement, I feel safe from the world...

  • Damn... (Score:2, Funny)

    by cyberfunkr ( 591238 )

    I was really hoping it was a reboot of that classic TV show "Salvage 1" []

  • The review is pretty much spot-on. I started reading SF in the early 60s, and have read a lot of the "pulp" SF from the 1930s, so I have a feel for what Space Vulture is trying to imitate.

    I agree that it's not a very good homage, and certainly not a parody. The writing is clumsy and a bit over-the-top in places - E.E. Doc Smith, or even E.R. Burroughs, these guys aren't. When I was about halfway through the book, I found myself wondering if I would finish it or throw it against the wall in frustration.


  • "Space Vulture" is a bad imitation of 1930s pulp fiction. It's so bad it's almost a parody, but it's not funny.

    If you want to read modern over-the-top fiction written in 1930s pulp style, there's far better stuff around. Microsoft's pulp fiction division turned out some "Crimson Skies" novels [] which were published as books. They're surprisingly good. "Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow" is quite well done. John Zakour [] has several pulps about a future detective. Those are very funny. I could name

  • I know I'll get modded -1: Offtopic

    I figure sci-fi readers would be perusing this thread. I read part of a book back in the mid-80's which I wasn't able to finish, had an interesting but somewhat shallow plot, and I couldn't take the book with me. I'd like some help identifying it.

    Every once in a while, I'll remember bits about the book, but never the title. Can anybody guess the book by the following partial description?

    It involved a space encounter (delegation) between Humans and "tentacled creatures". Th

"Never face facts; if you do, you'll never get up in the morning." -- Marlo Thomas