Nico (vilakins) wrote,

The Laertian Gamble by Robert Sheckley

Since someone has this book on their reading list, I thought I'd finally get round to expressing my opinion of it before I take it to the SPCA charity shop.

I've enjoyed a lot of Robert Sheckley's classic work so when I saw this Star Trek novel, I grabbed it. However either the guy can't write any more or he's hired a very, very bad ghost writer, pretty much what I also suspect of Larry Niven who used to be a favourite.

This is a DS9 story featuring a beautiful alien called Allura. [rolls eyes] Here she is:

She was tall and slender with a great mane of tawny hair that she kept in place with silver pins, Her features were delicate, but there was a look of determination about her that saved her from mere prettiness. She would have been a standout anywhere; but here on DS9 she was like a radiant young goddess. [Why the semicolon?] She wore a long pleated gown which mingled the colours of violet and ivory. She had a tunic with built-up shoulder pads. It had frogged fastenings of gold cord but she had left it open in front. It was a costume Bashir found intriguing.
The first part almost flows but those last few sentences are typical of the whole book: short, choppy, awkward, and begging to be assembled into larger ones.

Strange things start happening when Allura starts gambling with Bashir but though I skimmed through the book in faint hope, I never found a satisfactory explanation. Bashir and Quark are at least given a couple of character traits--susceptibility to pretty aliens and greed--but the rest have dialogue that could be spoken by anyone, especially Dax and Kira who go to Allura's home planet to find out more. This planet incidentally is full of bureaucrats and people with distinctly Earth-type names like Mehmet, Gregor, Marlow, and Ken.

Here's a random bit of typical prose, the beginning of Chapter 51:
The Gamemaster stayed only a brief time on his flagship. Then he returned to DS9. Although matters were going very well indeed, there was one more thing he could do to insure success. He had come back to do it.
Quite apart from the 'insure' which may well be an American usage, this reads like very bad fanfic, the sort I'd back away from very fast. How did it get published? On the strength of Sheckley's name? I was interested enough in what others thought to look at some Amazon reviews and they mostly agreed with me apart from one or two who thought the thing was a comic masterpiece. If it was meant to be, it should have been funny and also competently written.

Ah yes, and how is the whole gambling-related reality anomaly or whatever it was (which has killed a lot of people far away) solved? By finding Allura a boyfriend (Ken). Aaaaugh!

Also posted on Dreamwidth, with comment count unavailable comments.
Tags: books, rant
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