In praise of bad space opera

Hey, I can’t pass up free ebooks.

Speaking of free ebooks, I downloaded a science fiction book called Awakening: Dead Forever by William Campbell. It’s pretty much space opera–my guilty pleasure. I’m only about a fourth of the way through, and I can tell that I’m going to both like and hate it.

Campbell is pretty good about fast-paced action both with people fighting and vessels battling it out. Fun stuff. Clear writing makes even complex battles understandable. Think the Joss Whedon series, Firefly.

What bothers me about the story so far is the adolescent descriptions and actions of the female characters. The author goes into great detail on the physical attributes of Maddie, the story’s lead female. Adam, the protagonist, is about to be thrown into a pit of hellfire when Maddie rescues him:

Wow look at that! She is totally hot. What am I thinking? I’m about to die . . . But I can’t help it, she looks that good. Tight muscular thighs all the way up, blending perfectly into shapely hips that sway with her marvelous backside as she hurries down the ladder. Gadgets surround her trim waist . . . her tight sleeveless top reveals the rest of her feminine features, not particularly abundant, yet incredibly arousing, most notable the tantalizing treats the sheer  garment fails to conceal.

Okay, seriously? He’s about to face eternal damnation and he notices her muscular thighs? Sorry, I couldn’t help but laugh when I read this paragraph. Come on. Is Adam 16 years old? If not he sure sounds like it.

The other characters, crew members of a futuristic spacecraft, have responsibilities that are clearly presented. Matt is the techie weapons guy; Dave is the pilot; Adam is the captain. I’m not sure what Maddie is doing on the ship. I think she’s the mechanic, but all she’s managed to do is fall on top of the protagonist when the ship swerves sharply and say things like,

“My favorite position, on top of things.” She winks.

I remember what my well-read friend Laura always says when we are discussing books: “I can tell this book was written by a man. That’s not how a woman would behave in real life.” I try and remember this in my writing, because, even though Laura wouldn’t say it to my face, I wouldn’t want her to think that about my characters.

I’ll give the book a second chance and finish Awakening: Dead Forever because it’s a fun read even with its horny teenage perspective.

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