Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Jesus Incident: Review

Once upon a time in a science fictional decade far, far away there was an author named Frank Herbert. He wrote a novel called Dune and it was good. He wrote a few more Dune-related books and they were a mixture of good and bad. And he wrote a book called The White Plague and it was good as well. And then he joined up with another author (a poet) named Bill Ransom and wrote a novel called The Jesus Incident--and completely lost this member of his audience.

After having this novel (and its two companion pieces) sitting on my TBR shelf for decades, I decided that this year, with my Mt. TBR Challenge, was the year to finally tackle it and get it out the way. I'm going to confess up front--I did not read every word of the entire thing. I skimmed a great deal of the mid-section....because, let's face it, it wobbled between being down-right confusing and all-out boring. With Dune Herbert created a whole new world--lots of things going on that were unusual and different, but he managed to give the reader enough information about that world that we knew what was up and we actually cared about Paul's journey to become Muad-Dib. In The Jesus Incident, we have another whole new world....and I just don't get it and I don't really care all that much.

Well, okay. Yes, I did get it. We have this experimental group of the last survivors of Earth. They were originally set up to try and create sentience. Somewhere along the line, they succeeded and now their space vehicle, Ship, is sentient. And thinks it is god. And wants to be WorShipped. And it has brought the humans and their clones (yeah, what?) to a new "paradise" planet where they will be tested--one last time. (Apparently, there have been many "testings" prior to this that we really don't know about. Must not be important). If they fail to figure out to WorShip properly, then Ship is going to "wipe the tape," end the experiment, in a word--get rid of mankind. Nice.

Oh. And that "paradise" planet? Not so much. It's full of all kinds of predatory life that just love to kill humans/clones. And there's not enough food for everybody. Sounds like the perfect place to take your next vacation, don't you think?

You'd think that might be complex enough to hold my attention. Yeah, no. Because when it came down to it, the answer to how Ship expects to be WorShipped is a pretty lame and predictable and recycled answer. No new insights here. No real comment on the human condition or human spirituality or anything. Just not Herbert's best writing, in my opinion. One star.


Ryan said...

I love Dune and most of the other books that follow, though some more than others. I even enjoy the books his son has written in the Dune universe since then, though they are not as good the his fathers.

I'm been hesitant to read his other books, and now I know to skip this series entirely.

Bev Hankins said...

Ryan: If you want to try another Herbert book (non-Dune), then I suggest The White Plague.