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Smartass of Mars Kindle Edition
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Top customer reviews
Not to make too fine a point on this topic, but a plethora of larger e-book publishers & individuals putting stuff out via Amazon let many mistakes slip through. Granted, many e-books are a fraction of the cost of paper copies, but low cost should not be synonymous with poor quality and poor editing. Other e-book publishers can learn a lot from Gavin’s attention to detail in putting out a product that your high school English teacher wouldn’t hand back to you marked up with red ink.
Alex McVey knocks it out of the park with that cover! Looks like a banged up, dog eared ACE paperback circa 1970. McVey captures the spirit of Frazetta and Krenkel perfectly; down to the Martian weaponry & ferocious beast.
As for the story proper, Gavin manages to walk that tightrope between pastiche & satire perfectly. Fans of Sword & Planet fiction will find lots to love in this book, many of the time honored tropes are all present within its pages. Kunilak is a welded together combination of ERB’s Barsoom & Leigh Brackett’s Mars. The dying planet is littered with ancient cities, fierce native races and half forgotten science & weaponry (fliers & radium pistols). The Martian characters feel like they stepped out of one of Brackett’s Mars or Skaith novels. Gavin gives us a tour of Mars from the bottom up, he doesn’t spend too much time hanging around with the royalty and nobility of the planet (and for good reason). Instead, we are treated to a more down to earth, working class glimpse of life on the red planet. Eric John Stark would feel right at home on Kunilak. The novel’s protagonist, CJ Shifflett, is the one major innovation that Gavin brings to the Sword & Planet genre; a man-boy who can’t fight his way out of a paper bag. Although not a likable character, through a variety of hardships, adversities and challenges, CJ grows as a character and grows up into adulthood. The plot is fast paced and cliffhangers are presented at the end of each chapter and there are a few sneaky plot twists that are right out of Bester’s The Stars My Destination. Just a word of warning: profanity & adult situations are present in this novel, so it’s not a book for the kids.
So, Jim Gavin, two questions; when is the paperback version of is SAOM going to drop and when is Gods of Kunilak (or whatever your title for book 2) coming out?
This book is an attempt at an homage of a Barsoom story, featuring a young man in the modern era being sent to Not-Barsoom and having adventures. For a Burroughs fan wanting to get their kicks with a new story like this, you're already sold (like I was). But hold on. There are three major issues about this book that will completely ruin your experience.
The most minor issue is that it's not Barsoom. That would be fine if Gavin explained details, but he doesn't. Gavin knows the demographic that will buy this book, and as such, assumes you've read Burrough's Barsoom stories. However, since Gavin has to change the names to Barsoom characters, landscape, and creatures this can be problematic. You're constantly wondering what a creature is supposed to be what. Not only that, but the main character will flip-flop on using cultural references to describe what he's seeing (like calling Green-man Orcs and referencing Star Trek and Star Wars). Doing that takes the reader out of the world.
Next is the main character himself: C.J. is not a consistent character. He's often describing himself as a nerd/geek type, but he's constantly contradicting that. He'll talk about being a loser, but then go off about how he's been a bunch of girls in college. Not only that, but he says he's not a hard drinker, but constantly is drinking. His personality is that of a self-absorbed uncaring cocky jock, but he's also a sensitive "loser" who will occasionally feel empathy for a random person seemingly out of nowhere. He's both good at everything and sucks at it at the same time.
Third, and the worst aspect of this story, is the swearing. Good God, Gavin's writing.... every other sentence is an f-bomb is dropped. Now I, by no means, am a prude and am opposed to swearing, but this is far too much. Not only does it break Burroughs' style, but it's one more thing that takes the reader out of the world. The story is written in first person, so there's no escaping C.J.'s filthy mouth. It's constant and never-ending. For a nerd-type who's supposed to be a loser, this guy swears like a drunken sailor.
There are minor things that are just nit-picking. Like Gavin sort dumping on John Carter himself, as the Not-Barsoom representative John Byrd is a raving barbaric monster. This story is also so macho it makes even Burroughs look like a feminist. The most likable female character is a talking spider. Speaking of likability, there is practically no one. Not-Barsoom is filled with Earthmen, so our "protagonist" isn't special. And to top it all off there is a twist towards the end that is so awful it's story-breaking. The twist isn't necessary, is out of genre, and comes literally out of nowhere, and goes just about as fast. The result of the twist causes the whole story the reader has been on to completely change for the worst. And it wasn't that great to begin with.
So there you have it. Someone had to give the real account of this story, since previous reviewers didn't. I bought this book because of their recommendations. I'm a huge Burroughs fan and while I appreciate this attempt to be a homage, it so off pouting. This doesn't feel like a pulp fantasy adventure. If this was straight parody it actually would be better. But it isn't. The writing structure is everywhere, the feeling isn't there, and the protagonist is unlikable. There is literally no reason to read this. The only positive I can give this is that the physical copy looks amazing, the book is sturdy and the cover art is fantastic. It has a real nostalgic feel to it. But other than that....
Buy at your own risk.
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