Space Games by Dean Lombardo
Buy it on Amazon
File Size: 535 KB
Print Length: 362 pages
Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
Publisher: Kristell Ink, Grimbold Books (June 21, 2013)
The battle between the sexes has a long and glorious history in sci-fi. From move "classics" such as "Queen of Outer Space" on to the 90's New Outer Limits' episode "Lithia" and Norman Spinrad's forgotten but still worth reading novel "A World Apart," boys and girls have been arguing, fighting, and getting on each other's nerves for decades. It's a conflict meme that never goes out of date. Only the style of the clash changes.
For example, "Queen of Outer Space," the greatest movie Zsa Zsa Gabor ever made, has a ringy dingy, "girls just want to have fun" vibe to it that leaves you remembering your first prom date. (Though the movie does have a darker side. The male lead, Eric Flemming, who would later star for years alongside Clint Eastwood in the TV series "Rawhide," is thought to have thrown himself to Amazonian piranhas while filming in South America. One would think that after spending a couple of weeks on set with Zsa Zsa Garbor, this manner of demise would have had a certain "been there, done that" feel, but we musn't question fate.)
The Outer Limits' "Lithia" possesses a more dystopian atmosphere and drives home the lesson that women can be cold indeed. Spinrad's novel reaches back to that 70's Cold War zeitgeist, when capitalism and communism wrestled for world supremacy under the shadow of two forests of ICBMs and asks both genders "can't we all just get along?"
Space Games answers that query with a resounding "no." The novel's feel is a blend of UFC meets Survivor meets Rollerball and no one gets along with anyone.
Now, before going any further, I feel it only fair to warn you. Games is one of the most violent and vicious books I've read in years, just this side of action porn. If you tend to tear up while rewatching "Notting Hill" for the tenth time and think "The Notebook" one of the greatest films ever made, DO NOT READ THIS BOOK. It will depress your life. On the other hand, if you're up for some sly, hard- nosed, insightful social satire, you will enjoy Space Games. And once you pick it up, you won't put it down until the last blood splatter has been launched and the last bone has been crunched. (Both occur frequently in the book.)
The plot of Space Games is as follows. Several decades from now, a new version of the International Space Station has been launched. Funded largely by private and corporate funds, the station is rented out for a new reality show, Space Games. The format pits man against woman in a contest for farme, fortune (a cash prize, endorsements, virtual fights against viewers) and gender superiority bragging rights. The competition consists of a series of contests, most of which encourage mauling, mutilation and mayhem.
The impresario of this death match in the sky is producer Sheldon Zimmer, accompanied by his not-so-loyal sidekick, Morty. (I know, I know. This is satire, remember?) Sheldon is a cross between Jerry Springer and Heydrich and worships money, ratings, and notoriety in no particular order.
The protagonists (the words "heroine" and 'hero" are completely inappropriate to the novel) of Space Games are Robin and Joe. Robin is a hybrid of Kim Kardashian and a rottweiler; Joe a mix of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jason. When the games begin, Robin is giving away a foot and a hundred pounds to Joe, but zero-G and a lack of a conscience can make up for a great deal. As the bloodletting and violence slowly spiral out of control in the orbiting colosseum, both characters win, lose, recover, and fight their way to the story's bloody denouement. Who you root for and why will depend entirely on your individual perspective and the level of trauma you've suffered in the past at the hands of the opposite sex. (Some of these aspects of your personality are probably best kept to yourself.)
Author Dean Lombardo's prose is crisp and professional and he keeps the story moving at a breakneck pace. The descriptions of how the station operates and other technical details are well thought through and convincing. The action sequences will make you wince (or adopt even more extreme facial contortions), but a generation that has flocked to seven "Saw" movies has no reason to object.
The most cogent complaints levied against the book are its violence and sexual abuse, but c'mon. Have you ever watched a UFC match? When I was a kid, there was name for what takes place in those arenas. It was called "criminal assault." Today, UFC matches regularly out rate their boxing counterparts.
When discussing sexual abuse, I have to admit there's no TV show (yet) that encourages or rewards the contestants for raping each other (and to be accurate, neither do the rules of Space Games). But we've already created and eagerly watch reality shows that encourage and reward paid prostitution. (What, you don't realize that's what's going in The Bachelor and The Bachelorette? No need to thank me; I was glad to make that clear.)
I do have one objection to Space Games and that's the coda at the end. In this section, the thoroughly loathsome Sheldon gets what's coming to him. I won't describe how or why, but I think his fate fails to mesh with the thrust of the book. You see, in the world of reality TV, when the last chair bangs over the head of the last guest on the set of the Jerry Springer Show on its last day, or when Geraldo descends from exposing patient abuse at mental hospitals to hawking the discovery of a couple of bottles of discarded beer in the "crypts" of Al Capone, these guys don't go away. Shame does not quell them. Public revulsion does not move them. Past guests do not kill them.
Instead, they plan their next comeback.
I highly recommend Space Games. (I also highly recommend that you not let your girlfriend, fiance, or wife read it after you've just had a fight.)
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