Gordon R. Dickson – The Earth Lords

earthlords When I think of Dickson, I think of the Dorsai books that I read a long time ago. These were military SF and probably Dickson, more than anyone else, has defined Military Science Fiction. The war in Vietnam soured me on militarism, so I only read a few of them, but I remember that the Dorsai books were very good.

The Earth Lords (1989) is one of the books I picked up a couple of weeks ago at a garage sale. It is a longish book, about 200K, and suffers a little from what I was talking to J. Erwine about on his blog. There is a general feeling that the prose is padded to make it a longer book. As one of J’s commenters was saying, it could have been edited down by 80%.

The characters are the usual suspects. I am going to write a paper some day on the curse of the reasonable protagonist. The best books have flawed characters. Science Fiction does not. Most SF books suffer from heroic characters who have all the fine characteristics that that author obviously sees in himself, or wants to.

The plot initially appears to be a pretense to paint the image that appears on the cover. It is about a race of super-human little people – the Earth Lords – that live underground and use regular people as "Steeds". They ride around on the backs of humans.

Once the key image is out of the way, the plot becomes the protagonist’s attempt to thwart the Earth Lord’s plan to ruin the earth with a machine that move the tectonic plates and create volcanoes and earthquakes. Yes, it’s a dumb premise. Since it takes place in the 19th century in Canada there are holes in the logic that you could drive a large horse through.

The good things about The Earth Lords is good prose. It reads well and the images are all well painted, although it uses a few too many words. It is hampered by the wooden characters and a love interest that seems illogical and one sided. The plot is not all that believable. A decent read, but not a book I’ll be reading again soon.

Next up is Hellflower by George O. Smith from 1953 – my kind of SF. It’s short, 60-70k so I might have it finished by Friday.


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I started reading Science Fiction in the 1950s. I started Writing SF in the 1960s. Then, I had a life. Now I am retired, raising chickens and keeping bees. I am still an avid reader and I have sold about 70 stories in the last 20 years.
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