Friday, May 13, 2022

20. Planet in Peril by John Christopher

I found this on the shelf at Welch's (I still habitually look for Christopher despite not having seen any of his books for ages) and thought it a nice find.  I guess it was, in that Planet in Peril is quite possibly the worst John Christopher. I don't know what drove him to write it.  Was he trying to emulate some of the succesful American sci fi that dealt with a future of alternative political systems?  Right from the beginning, one is uninterested.  It takes pages to establish any kind of plot and though we are clearly in some future America where a great disruption has ended with a new social and political system called "Managerialism" none of it is explained with any depth and what is explained is not interesting or compelling at all.  It seems that all the world but a small (I guess Arabicish) part called Siraq is organized into different gigantic companies/government departments like Atomics, Agricultural, etc.  The protagonist is somehow also part of United Chemicals.  These managerials compete against each other and there are hints of decay.  Also there is a comet, but it's barely mentioned.  

The story is that the hero after years working quietly in the same lab, suddenly gets transferred and promoted to a location where his predecessor disappeared in a sailing accident.  When he gets to the new office, he meets the resentful assistant, who is also attractive and they hit it off. Then there is a lot of intrigue that you really don't care about, culminating in the possibility of Siraq invading the rest of the world with flying soldiers using heat rays generated from a new diamond energy that only the protagonist was somehow capable of inventing (except the Siraqis already invented).

There were a couple of good bits, such as the airspheres, giant bubbles you can fly around in the clouds, which was very well described and enjoyable to visualize.  There are nice, subtle descriptive moments that remind you what a good writer Youd was.  Overall, though, a dud.

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