Sunday, October 20, 2019

78. Prisoner of Fire by Edmund Cooper

Well this was the first really bad book that I've read this year.  It's disappointing too because the trade dress was right up my alley.  A beautiful Coronet paperback from the 70s with lovely typography and layout on the cover (though the illustration isn't very exciting).  It also has that nice rich paper and wide margins that make these books so physically pleasurable to read.  I also thought I was in for a great ride at the beginning which starts with a teenage telepath blocking the probes of the authorities and planning her escape from her residential school/prison for psychic kids. 

Early on, the warning signs came.  First, a creepy suggestion that the middle-aged professor who studies her is also sexually interested in her and she in him.  Yuck.  Sadly, this theme becomes more than a suggestion as we have several situations where older men are with younger women romantically/sexually against or with their will.  There is also lots of arbitrary young sexuality thrown in purely for thrills like the throwaway line where one of the psychic boys is just sitting their masturbating.  I am fine with this stuff if it fits in, even if it isn't PC, but this is just thrown in purely for prurience.  It's already gross, but is also awkward and rarely makes any sense.  This reads like it was written by the 13-year old Dungeon Master that nobody wants to play with.

The girl does escape and ends up being a pawn between the autocratic Prime Minister (this takes place in the 90s with hovercars and tri-dis which are 3D televisions) and the opposition as well as a deranged telepathy expert who has assembled a gang of psychic misfits.  It all could have been fun plot wise, but everything is done so unsubtly, the pace is clunky and all the characters suck.  What's worse is that the ostensible protagonist, the girl, is utterly passive even though she has the best psychic power in all of Europe.  Again, I don't mind junkiness if it's fun and the story is well put together as in my foray into some of those Paperbacks from Hell around the theme of maternity.  Prisoner of Fire seemed to be aiming for that same audience, horny adolescent boys I guess.  Sadly, this British attempt at the genre was far inferior to the American counterpart. 

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