Thursday, 16 June 2011

Review: Rogue in Space

Rogue in Space (1957)

Crag is a criminal--a violent criminal. Come to that, he's a violent, misogynist criminall facing a choice between spending twenty years on a penal colony or having his mind wiped after being framed for drug running. The frame up turns out to be the first step by a power-hungry judge to use Crag to steal something for him on Mars that will allow the judge to lead a political revolution. But all is not as it seems and trust in Crag's world is a sure way to commit suicide.

Rogue in Space started as a pair of novellas written by Brown in 1949 and 1950.  The novel is essentially a stitching together of the earlier stories with a few very minor rewrites to match them up plus the addition of extra sex and sadism to spice things up for the hardcover market.  The seam is still there, however, and the stitching is very obvious with the plot revolving around Crag's part in the judge's plot suddenly shifting to Crag's adventures with a sentient asteroid.  The seam is also obvious in Crag himself. In the first half, he's a hard-bitten career criminal who has killed so many men he's lost count while in the second it's clear that his criminality is more a manifestation of Crag being the only man of integrity in a decadent, corrupt society.  It doesn't help that after a promising start the plot slows to a crawl until it reaches a dramatically unsatisfying ending. The story is also as grim and humourless as Crag himself and Crag is so one dimensional that as he struggles for meaning in his life you wonder why he doesn't get a hobby, collect stamps, or join a reading circle. 

Worst in all of this is that Brown, who justly made his name as a humour writer, shifts his gears into sci-fi noir, yet can't help but to throw in a running gag about Crag kicking in television sets.  Anthony Boucher called Rogue in Space "a thumping error in judgment," It would be hard to disagree.

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