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Cheesy Sci-fi: In Space!

So, today I have decided to concentrate my efforts on talking about only a couple of books instead of bombarding you with titles and names of authors before exhausting myself and waffling. I have also decided that as this account is now pretty old it is getting to the stage where it is embarrassing that I have never retained not only the original colour scheme but the same picture-less, word-heavy posts of the semi computer illiterate teen I was when I started this. Hopefully this will all come together and make future posts look a little more professional so please bear with me until then.

So the theme for today is Cheesy Sci-fi: In Space! Some of you may have heard me ranting on a while back about a book I found in a second hand bookshop entitled Dragons in the Stars. At the time I had nothing else with me to digest on the journey home and the title had made me laugh so I decided to read it. Like many old sci-fi novels of 20 or more years ago the author has created an extremely complex world, the logic of which he struggles to explain in a single small novel alone. In the end we get the basic idea of space ships that are navigated by the minds of young crew members, chosen specifically for this job. When navigating a space ship these crew members are locked in a place that is neither reality nor completely inside their minds.

It is here that our protagonist meets and rides dragons, takes part in dragon politics and learns how to not be such a weakling and to take charge of her own life. I am being a little mean here, after all she does get stuck on a spaceship with an abusive captain who tricks her into getting the futuristic version of a major drug addiction. However, she has pulls herself together eventually and goes on an adventure worth reading about.

The best thing about this book is that it is fairly original and does take you on one hell of an adventure. The bad points of the book are that it is completely unrealistic and over the top. It may not be written by a poet but for what I was expecting it was quite enjoyable.

Now, the real reason I brought up dragons in the stars is to give you a basis on which to compare the second book I found while rifling through a second hand bookshop one day: The Space Vampires.

Like the last one, I bought this book because the title made me laugh. It was about the same size as Dragons in the Stars if not a little smaller and seemed to have been published in the same era (this assumption was later proved false as Space Vampires was written in the 70's while Dragons in the Stars is from the very early 90's). The cashier in the bookshop where I found The Space Vampires seemed even more confused than my companion when I got the book.

It seems the author, Colin Wilson, is less known for his cheesy over the top sci-fi than for his books on philosophy. In fact, the inside of the cover of his most famous work The Outsider names him as England's most controversial intellectual. Thus it is that unlike the first book, which was amusing for its adventure, The Space Vampires is amusing for the way the plot will stall for pages at a time so that the characters can discuss philosophical views on the true nature of people and interpersonal interaction.

Many years ago I had the television on the discovery channel as I was doing work on one project or another and ended up being distracted by a documentary on the history of vampires. One thing that I hadn't previously known about was what had been referred to as "psychic vampires". This term was used to refer to people who sustained themselves by sucking energy out of those around them. The documentary listed some of the experiments performed in Russia to track psychic vampires by recording a person's life force by measuring electrical currents through the body.

This book is very reminiscent of that documentary as the vampires raise havoc by sucking the life force out of people and potentially killing them. As mentioned before the book throws around a lot of theories such as that all people have the potential to become vampires and that most mental diseases are caused by a disturbance of the life force that affects people's vital energies. The main protagonist starts off as being semi-likable if not a bit on the boring side as he spends most of his time analysing others and not actually doing much himself except for when work forces him to. He is married with two daughters that he loves but barely gives a second though to as he goes straight from being away for months in space to travelling overseas to meet and stay with a man who is thought to be knowledgeable on the subject of vampires.

As for things that I liked about this book, it did raise some interesting questions even if it tended to draw them out more than I would have thought necessary. My favourite bits of the book are mostly all from the one chapter where a vampire under interrogation reveals where their kind came from. This includes super smart, psychic squids and aliens as well as a planet of what would have appeared to be dinosaurs, but bigger! Given that all the main protagonists were men, bringing this up just seems like a fairly childish attempt to win them over with awesome stories. I almost expected the next part of the explanation the include hover-bike races on Mars. But instead it had to go on and on about how the squid things created Adam and Eve and taught humans about agriculture and probably gave them fire as well and all that other dull stuff.

Things that I didn't like about this book include that a lot of the things presented as logic seem like some dick's dream version of reality where everyone is just begging to be allowed to strip naked and lick his feet. This include conversations about things that are based the protagonists knowledge that all women secretly wish to submit and be conquered and that all clergymen are professional liars. This last statement is based on the assertion that if you don't want to be a slut and a whore (it doesn't matter if you are male or female) you clearly must be lying to yourself. This all becomes to much for me to ignore when, while staying at his hosts home, he gets seduced into making love with one of his host's pupils. After this he admits what he has done and that he is horrified with himself to his friend and his host while repeating that he has not even kissed a women in the whole five years that he has been married as if this is a tremendous feat to be proud of. (Personally not: if it is so difficult to resist cheating on the person you're with I would encourage you not to get married.) This isn't the end of the story though, because later on he goes out and meets another woman with which he participates in something equally intimate. In fact he then goes on to consider that she has the same expression on her face afterwards that his wife had after giving birth to their daughter. Immediately after having thought this he cracks a joke with the women about how he may need to leave his wife now and they both laugh it off. Great.

By the end of the book the protagonist is an old man and although we are never told what happened to his wife we learn that he is no longer with her. here's hoping that she and the kids made a clean escape.



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