- Del Curb, Cosmic Courier (#1)
- Published by Gollancz
- First published in 1989
- Space Opera
- 220 pages
Del Curb is a courier, running errands for the great and good of the galaxy, and everyone in between. But when he is tasked with delivering a package to Fraxilly, there’s more at stake than just money. This time, the price could be his life . . .
Most of the time, I know where I get a book from. My shelves are full of purchases from Waterstones, Amazon, Games Workshop, independent and second-hand bookshops. Some books I remember the exact town and shop. Then there are books that comes as gifts, about which I am morally obliged to ask questions. They just are. And some books have been around long enough that I don’t know where they came from. The Fraxilly Fracas is one such book, passed into my hands during a recent tidy-up around the house. ‘Here. This looks like your sort of book.’ If I have read it before, it was long enough ago that I have no memories of such a time. More likely, it’s just been in the family library gathering dust. In all honesty, perhaps it should have stayed doing just that.
Though only a little over three decades old, The Fraxilly Fracas feels like something from a much more distant era. It is aggressively pulpy in its sensibilities, with everything happening at a lightning pace, and the surface being the only detail we get. This is a story that zips along taking no prisoners, and taking no pauses for breath either. All of this is fine so far as a fun romp goes (and I love a good romp), but on closer examination, things rapidly begin to fall apart.
Douglas Hill was a children’s author before he wrote this book. Yet while it claims to be a work of adult SF, there’s something decidedly juvenile about it. For a start, absolutely everything is renamed. Robots are Intelloids, for example, and no one has anything so simple as a gun. No, there are all manner of techo gadgets available for our hero, who is of course a charismatic loner in the vein of Han Solo. Very much in the same vein, to the point it borders on a lawsuit. Lack of originality isn’t a deal breaker for me, but filing off the serial numbers and whacking a nonsense name on the thing? That gets tiresome quickly. Almost as tiresome as any time a woman appears on the page. If they’re not being hysterical, they’re being mauled. At one point, the primary love interest is kept in a harem, but finds time to joke that at least her new owner is too elderly to actually have sex with her. Ha ha ha. How comical.
I spend my life – and in particular this blog – trying to look on the bright side of things. But, boy oh boy, does The Fraxilly Fracas make that difficult for me. It is hands down the worst book I have read this year. The sole redeeming feature is that it makes me even more excited to start something new.