efore heading out on vacation, I broke open one of my old boxes of yellowing paperbacks, to take a handful with me for my relaxing time off. In the coming weeks, I’ll be reviewing a number of older titles from the eighties. You’ve been warned.
I wish someone had warned me about Venus of Dreams – why didn’t I write myself a note inside the cover, letting myself know what I was in for? It would be one of those time travel deals, where a past me could have let my current me know what I was getting myself into.
Yes, 536 very difficult pages.
I actually looked on Amazon (and found that this old ’86 yarn is still in print). Some five-star reviews, but one person gave it a single star, saying that he felt that, in this book, he saw every depressing trait of humanity. I’ll agree with this.
So it’s something like 500 years in the future and young Iris Angharads is getting a 3am piggy back ride from her grandmother to see Venus, the planet. It turns out that after Earth collapsed after the resource wars, the Muslim nations reformed the planet under a world-wide government. Their signature effort is to terriform Venus for settlement. So there’s something a young plains girl can aim at, right? How uplifting.
The problem is, her life is depressing. Her mother despises the idea of her using her free time to learn things – lots of acidic comments from her. So does the community of women who manage Lincoln, the tiny farming town they live in (men, it seems, leave their towns to wander, doing odd jobs and getting sexual handouts from the horny, whiskey-swilling plains ladies). So you’ve got an angry mother, a helpless grandmother, a town full of provincials, and a visiting man or two. Iris focuses on learning, using people when needed to further her goals. In the end, she becomes a rather stunted, driven, borderline neurotic woman.
The thing is, I’ve read books where the hero is malformed. Thomas Covenant was one such character, Harry Flashman another. They were interesting. Even with their failings, I enjoyed them. But Iris, I got tired of. She was always fussing about this and worrying about that, making the same hateful mistakes with her son that her mother made with her. And so it goes, with the Muslim hierarchy scheming against each other and worried about appearances, Iris and her friends never enjoying a single day in their lives with all the existential despair they face, and the Habbers (the folks who got off Earth in the crash) playing it distant and being elf-mysterious about everything.
By the time Iris had screwed things up for just about everyone, her husband Chen had left her (for I don’t know how many times) her boy Bezil had sulked about in loveless abandonment, and the project limped along at the verge of stalling with its workforce of lazy bastards and whining terrorists, I was ready for it to end.
Hey, it might just be me, but the future was not shade-wearing bright. No, it;s going to be one dreary slog. So, if you like your scifi ultra-realistic and interpersonally depressing, this might be the book for you. You can have mine. I think I’m done with it this time.