Wednesday, May 03, 2023

Star Smashers of the Galaxy Rangers

With a title like Star Smashers of the Galaxy Rangers (SSGR), you might assume this book is space opera. It’s not. It’s a parody of space opera, which is horse of a different color. Specifically, it seemed to parody most the work of E.E. Doc Smith in his “Lensman” series, which, admittedly, is not the best space opera ever written.

To me, Space Opera and Sword & Planet fiction (like John Carter of Mars) are the purest forms of sheer entertainment out there. They do, however, contain certain tropes that invite some writers to lampoon them. That doesn’t mean the lampooning works.

Harry Harrison (born Henry Maxwell Dempsey, 1925-2012), who wrote SSGR, was a talented writer. He’s best known for his “Stainless Steel Rat” stories but I’ve generally preferred other works of his, including “Make Room, Make Room,” which became the basis for the movie Soylent Green, and the Deathworld stories.

However, humor is difficult to write for even the most talented author. In my opinion it’s the most difficult emotion to create in writing. And I, personally, am pretty difficult to please on the humor front. I like humor in my fiction. Just not all humor all the time. I prefer dark humor, and humor when it comes out of the circumstances and the characters. I don’t generally like it when it’s layered on with a spatula and drowns every line.

While I chuckled here and there through SSGR, I didn’t get any belly laughs and I pretty quickly became bored. I mostly sped-read the last 100 pages. Too often, humor turns characters into caricatures. It defuses tension in order to get in a zinger. It becomes predictable because you know the writer is going to choose the most ridiculous option in any situation. It also makes it difficult to maintain any suspension of disbelief in the actual story. And primarily, it is the “story” that I want when I read.  The story in SSGR was weighed down by so many stabs at humor that I just couldn’t get into it.

SSGR is a well written parody. If you like such pieces you’ll probably like this one. I didn’t care much for it and was rather happy when I was done so I could move on to a different book. Of course, please remember that these are my opinions and your own might differ.


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

He wrote what became Soylent Green? Never knew the author's name.
Humor is difficult in a book. It's like The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Everyone thinks it's funny but I didn't enjoy the book at all.

Jeff said...

while I enjoy parody, I tend to like it best in political humor. I agree, humor is difficult to do well.

Charles Gramlich said...

Alex, I didn't care for Hitchhiker's guide either. Nor Catch-22, another one that many people think is funny.

Jeff, political parody is easier to enjoy. I wonder why.