Welcome back to the second incarnation of the Self Published Science Fiction Competition. If you’ve been keeping up with us (and I do hope you have been), then you’ll be aware that we have finished our slushpile reading and ended up with seven books that the majority of the team agreed were worth reading to completion. Over the course of the next few weeks these seven quarterfinalists will be whittled down to three semifinalists, who will then be handed over to other judging teams for further analysis and discussion. How we turn seven into three is quite simple. Each member of our judging team will attempt to read the entire book. Upon completion, we will individually score it on a scale of 0 to 10, with 0 being one of the worst books we’ve ever read, and 10 being one of the best. We then take the average of these scores and turn that into the team’s overall score. If a judge decides to DNF a book for reasons other than time constraints or stylistic disagreement, their vote is counted as 0, but through the magic of mathematics, they are counted as half a judge for the purposes of working out the average. Though a little complicated, this in theory stops a book being removed from the contest simply because one judge has a visceral reaction to it. If a book impresses the other judges enough, a DNF needn’t be the end of the story.
What you’re about to read is my own personal review of one of the quarterfinalists. It doesn’t necessarily reflect the thoughts or opinions of my fellow judges, and as always I encourage readers to give the book a go and make their own judgements.
Today I’m taking a look at Earthship by John Triptych. Having read to the twenty percent mark, this was one of five quarterfinalists that I voted YES on continuing. Now, it’s time for me to read the rest.
Earthship is the literary equivalent of a disaster movie. Think 2012, The Day After Tomorrow, or anything else where the world is doomed and it’s up to a brave few to fight for their survival. Like those stories, Earthship plays out on a properly global scale, from the United States of America, all the way to China, with plenty of stop-offs in between. As you might expect, that means this ends up as a rather long book, but the pacing rarely lets up. If the action isn’t taking place on the page, it’s probably being plotted. And if not, then we’re dealing with the immediate aftermath.
In true apocalyptic style, the story really kicks off with the government ignoring the warnings of a rogue scientist. I must admit, this is a trope I don’t have much time for. And if you’re not a fan of apocalyptic tropes in general, then you’ll probably want to give Earthship a miss, because it is chock-full of them. In this same plot thread, I do find it a little unlikely that an object the size of Jupiter could collide with the Sun without everyone with access to a telescope, or indeed the sky, knowing about it, but this really isn’t the genre for scientific accuracy. If you’re looking for a thrilling end-of-the-world ride, you’ll get that. There are corrupt politicians, space races, global wars, natural disasters, and even a religious crusade. (More on that in a bit.)
The sheer scale of the book is a weakness. There are a lot of perspective changes. For me, too many of them. The cast is so spread out that it feels as if there’s nothing connecting them, that this is several stories woven inexpertly into one. A lot of the logic issues I could overlook in a blockbuster film become more apparent in literary form. And while much of Triptych’s future world is handled in a satisfying manner (the shifts in global politics are one of the stronger elements) it falls flat in the religion department. I’m not going to claim to be an expert on Catholicism, but Earthship‘s take on them is so lacking in nuance it borders on vilification. The rampant devout make for a decent human threat, but it’s annoyingly basic in an area where a bit more depth would have been much appreciated.
Overall, Earthship is a competent and largely satisfying novel of the end of the world, but it’s a style of storytelling better suited for the big screen than for the small page. Accordingly, I’m awarding an SPSFC score of 6.5/10.
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