Books Read- 203 Books to Read-282 Percent Complete- 41.86%

Just Finished (For the third time) - 'Mirror Dance' by Lois McMaster Bujold

Thursday, December 13, 2012

1967 Nebula Award Nominee- 'The Eskimo Invasion' by Hayden Howard

The Eskimo InvasionThis is another book that hasn't done such a good job of standing the test of time.  I have no idea how this book looked the year it was published, but now it has been largely forgotten by history due to the racism, sexism and badly misunderstood science that fills the book.  There is no way a novel like this could get published today, though that's not to say it is completely without merit.  One of the reason awards lists like the Hugo and Nebula are important is that they give us a window into the time period in which the books are written.  And the fact that this book was nominated at all proves that it's worth a read if only to see what people were reading back in the day.

This review area is not a spoiler free space, as I normally write under the assumption that those reading have already completed the novel.  I want a space for people who have finished a book to be able to seek others' opinion.  So normally I won't go real big into plot summaries, I've never really liked reading reviews that are book reports.  But, no one has read this book, and my review will not inspire people to read this book, so I'll break the plot down as neatly as I can. A man has sex with an Inuit woman only to  find that she gives birth only a few weeks later.  That child matures in only a few months, and pretty soon starts giving birth to more children that mature in only a few months.  After a little while the entire world fills up with "Eskimos," insanity ensues.  There's a space alien that made this happen and wants them all to die at the same time so their "death energy" can fuel him on to bigger and better things.  No book ever written stands up well to the five sentence summary, but that's about the best I've got for this book.  Though like I said this book is not without merit.

Try to Imagine the story that goes with
This novel is a great example of the roots of science fiction.  If you go back to the early days of science fiction you'll find that sex and violence were a huge part of  the genre.  The pulp novels of the 40s and 50s are the roots of the genre, and anyone who's ever read any of those books from before there were Hugo's or Nebula's knows that they often aimed right for the lowest common denominator.  Just look at Burrough's 'A Princess of Mars,' published in 1917 the entire book dances around the idea of sex between the two main characters.  And that's one of the more tame novels from the time, just looking at the covers to some of the cheaper pulp magazines is enough to make you giggle today.  'The Eskimo Invasion' presents a natural evolution between what science fiction was in it's infancy and what it was becoming.  The author brings in enough of the sex and violence of the pulp era but attempts (not always successfully) to tell a meaningful and compelling story. 

There are some interesting ideas present in this novel.  Often a novel can succeed with only a good idea to propel it along.  There are many examples of poorly written novels that have a story strong enough that it just doesn't matter, I talked about this with 'Dark Universe' but 'Tau Zero' is probably an even better example.  I don't know if 'The Eskimo Invasion' qualifies for this type of exemption, but I can see how some people could enjoy the novel.  The concept is out there, and just when you think you have the novel figured out the author takes it one step further and things get even weirder.  Not a bad thing for a novel.

In the end this is still a very interesting novel, and a good indicator of the pulp fiction of the times.  I don't know if I would recommend it to the casual reader of science fiction, but more for those who want to know how the genre got started and those who want to read something weird. I will say that it probably has the coolest cover of all time, and if I were a fifteen year old that would be a blown-up poster on my wall.  Also interesting is that this book is so forgotten by history that there really aren't that many reviews about it on the internet.  As such it seems like it's gained a kind of hipster cred, where the few reviews there are only talk about how good it is and how everyone should read it just because it's obscure and forgotten.  Really I think I've got the only negative review on the internet and that seems weird for this book (though I talked to one of the people who'd read it and he actually seemed to have enjoyed it, so maybe it's me).

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