Synopsis: Long-winded Libertarians lead the fight against an extra-terrestrial insectish species in this 1983 sci-fi novel.
I had such high hopes for this book. Its cover promised all sorts of awesome. And then, I discovered the author wrote the Star Trek “Trouble with Tribbles” episode.
Cheezy cover! History of Tribbles! Silly rhyming title! (War/Chtorr)
Alas, it was not to be.
Like most sci-fi/fantasy books I’ve reviewed here, the biology is a bit muddled. Although, really. When you have a post-apocalyptic world invaded by aliens, who’s going to quibble about a little bad biology?
(Well, besides me, anyway?)
The Chtorr are described as insects in several places, but also as having “purple skin and varicolored fur.” Or as “giant, pink, fur-covered caterpillars.” Or “a large, purple and red, man-eating caterpillar.” An eye-witness account:
“It was huge! Nearly twice the length of a man, bright red and more than a meter thick at the head! Its eyes were black and lidless. It reared up into the air and waved its arms and made that chirruping sound again; its mouth was a flashing maw. “Chtorr!” it cried. “Chtorrrrrr!”
Perhaps the Chtorr are foreshadowing Lady Gaga’s wardrobe and career?
But I digress.
In 1998 the world is destroyed by a series of plagues, and only a few Americans are left. They are gathered into “re-education” locations and given mandatory civics classes on the duties of citizens in this new world. Apparently, those classes make an impression, because fully one third of this 397 page book is the main character flashing back to high school discussions of wealth redistribution and federal abuse of power.
It is just about as fascinating as you would expect.
That’s a shame, because the fundamental concept of the book (which you figure out when you FINALLY arrive at page 213) is centered around invasive species displacing the native inhabitants of Earth’s ecosystems. Aliens are terraforming the Earth by ecological invasion.
That is a brilliant thing to build a novel around! The invaders are more competitive ecologically. Alien plants change the light transmittance and oxygen level in water. Alien insecty-things become the top predators in their new ecosystem.
Add to that the invaders can only be killed by fire or explosives, and you’ve got a firecracker of a book.
Um, unless you bog it down with tedious discussions of what money is, and how the state and individual power balance is maintained.
The portrayal of women in this book just adds to the Dismal. All but one of the female characters in the book are “comfort women.” In fact, a topic covered in that high school civics class is the duty of all hotties under 18 to put out for the betterment of humankind. Not the most enlightened future society, but if you’re going to kill everyone, I guess stockpiling nubile young women as well as weapons is to be expected.
So there you have it. Disappointing.
(As a final aside, one of the main characters is named Dr. Obama!)