Title: Earth Three
Author: Richard Ross
Amazon Link: Earth Three
Length: Roughly 251 pages
Reviewer: Michael Keenan
Rating: One gelatinous meh out of five.
Point at which I would have quit had I not been reviewing it: 1%
David has lived all the twenty-two years of his life inside spaceship Columbus, which is the only world he knows. His destination is Earth Three, an Earth-like planet with harsh weather and life-threatening conditions, inhabited by humans for thousands of years. The only evidence that there are people still living on Earth Three is a hostile message received a few years before Columbus took off from Earth.
As Columbus approaches its destination, after a sixty-five years journey through the universe, David and his group are daunted by the hostile message and the dangers that they may face on Earth Three, both from the planet itself and from its inhabitants.
When they finally land on their new home, all their fears come true.
This is a really, really bad book. The characters are indistinct; the plot is predictable, dry, and emotionless; the setting is colorless; the language is very distinctly non-native and entirely un-edited; and above all else the amount of thought put into it is closer to a D assignment written the night before the due date in a high school creative writing class than it is a published book.
It’s kind of a fun read in a so-bad-it’s-good way, and it has a certain charm, but nonetheless I would avoid with extreme prejudice.
This book is, more than anything, characterized by authorial indifference. Every part of it is permeated by a gelatinous glop of meh. Does technology need to have advanced in the millennium since modern times? Meh. Do the characters need to have basic knowledge of anything? Meh. Does the plot need to have any twist or uniqueness? Meh. Meh. Meh. Meh.
The space ship appears to be of varying size, at times seeming small and cramped, but at others we find it big enough to have hidden rooms, fields and pasturage for growing food the old fashioned way, training grounds for combat, actual houses somehow in the mass of space that fits inside a ship that is noted as small from the outside. Perhaps they stole Doctor Who technology?
They also seem to have been given no preparation for the mission. There’s no planning in place for how to deal with things they are quite certain they’ll face, no firm sense of organization, and not even a broad educational base to serve the purposes of a self-contained vessel meant to hold a breeding clutch of human beings for the better part of a century.
The moment that sticks out for me is when they’re trying to figure out the contents of their armory, which has apparently not been catalogued in any way. They’re actually sitting there counting things, and half the crew is surprised to find they have an armory at all.
I just picture this guy tossing M16’s onto a spaceship like an airplane baggage thrower, getting tired of it and just walking away pushing the M16 cart in front of him. Some guy stops him, like, “How many weapons did you put on, sir?” He kind of shrugs, only half listening, and the guy’s like, “Well, how many do you think they’ll need?” He makes that burbling noise with his lips and is like “Iiii… dunno. Didn’t really think about it. Can you run these M16’s back down to the M16 heap and make sure not to log them in for me?”
The whole trip is just littered with stuff like that, a sense that this was thrown together on a whim, an interstellar trip 65 light years from Earth made with the kind of preparation a disorganized single father dedicates to a weekend fishing trip. Even the technology seems to have developed in the most random way possible. The guns and farming techniques seem, if anything, to be behind ours – they seem pretty certain that 500 yards is outside their rifle range (but inside wooden bow range), and they’ve brought recurve bows along for the ride, presumably having totally meant to pick up some compound bows at the store but, like, completely spaced it, man.
Indeed, the millennium-plus period between our time and theirs appears to have afforded them next to no technological advancement in areas outside of spacecraft propulsion. A massive war having destroyed our homeworld, they apparently accomplished none of the weapons development which has accompanied every single moment of human militancy since the advent of the javelin. Perhaps there were treaties stating that no one could learn anything for that period, least of all hydroponics or logistics.
After all, that would violate the code of meh.
I won’t pick too much on the language, since the writer is very visibly a non-native, but I’m mentioning it for two reasons. Number one, writing this haphazardly and then inflicting it on the rest of us is needlessly cruel, like making shitty food and then dumping it, still boiling, on passersby without bothering to eat it yourself (and after all, why would you want to?). Number two, it’s bad enough to completely undermine what little charm the piece has. It gets worse and worse as the piece goes on, passing from “pretty obviously non-native” to “frequently re-reading phrases to glean the intended structure” backed by a chorus of half-hearted meh.
The plot is a target; that late-afternoon dreariness that’s dull and predictable but not so much that one can get worked up about it. Its predictability, and the humor which can be thereof derived, is one of the few things that the book has to its credit, but even that is somehow destroyed by the tortoise-slow relation of its thin and undetailed framework. By what I would, a year ago, have called a miracle but am now forced to admit may just characterize our entire industry, it manages to be both slow-paced and underdeveloped, sitting at a strange crossroads of needing both expansion and contraction. I picture a series of editors reading it and just hanging themselves, knowing that they can’t afford to lose the job without giving up the desperate search for ways to feed their kids but at the same time being painfully aware, indeed haunted by night and by day, by the reality that there simply isn’t anything to be done.
That, or they saw what they were working with and were just buried in meh.
The characters, colorless and frequently indistinguishable as they might have been, were probably the high point. They at least had a few good lines, they drove the plot without seeming contrived (by and large), and they began to bring out the world. Began, I emphasize, because the book ended well before we started to get a feel for things. Well, I say ended. It stopped telling the story. I won’t spoil it for you, in case someone is foolish enough to throw themselves headfirst into the gelatinous meh, but prepare to be disappointed.
All in all, there’s next to nothing to recommend this book. It’s painful to read because of the language alone, and the story itself is half-hearted and ill conceived with the very strong hallmarks of something that just didn’t mean much to anyone in the process. It very nearly reaches the two-star mark, but there’s just too much terrible garbage weighing it down, and even if we can say it has some saving grace, it’s too painful to dig into to matter.
I guess what I’m saying is… meh.
Michael is the court jester in the kingdom of truth. He combines a biting sense of humor with a lifetime of editing knowledge to craft reviews that are equal parts literary critique and insult comedy. Cruelty and veracity are his image of self.
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