Spoor, Ryk E. -- Grand Central Arena

This is not Doc Smith fanfic. No, it's fanfic of every SF work published in the 70s and 80s. (The author happens to be a Doc Smith fan, but that's irrelevant, except for the character named Marc DuQuesne. There's an explanation. The explanation is that the author is a Doc Smith fan.)

So humanity invents FTL, and the first starship lands smack in the middle of Eon crossed with the Well World crossed with any given RPG milieu handbook. Then follows 600 pages of discovering the environment, the aliens, the alien politics, the One Thing Humanity Is Better At, and the meticulously-worked-out rules -- interspersed with fight scenes and spaceship races. All great fun, of course. The action scenes are, to be clear, the frosting on the cake; the cake is a Big Dumb Object story. Character development is, well, it's not entirely absent, but it's the little silver beads scattered on the frosting. (In the tradition of all BDO stories of the 70s and 80s.)

The book is a fine example of what it is, and I'm glad I read it, but I'm also glad that most SF (even the relatively small slice of SF that I keep up with these days) has moved beyond this model.

If I have a serious complaint, it's that the book needed one more editing pass. Sentences, whole paragraphs, and the occasional entire scene are blatant "let me show you how much detail I've thought about" showboating -- understandable, but in need of the belt sander nonetheless.

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