|Submitted by Robert Burrage|
(Oct 08, 1999)
A book is like a financial mutual fund, to take a measure of its performance and quality you have to compare it against an index, and you have to compare it against the right index. To take a correct and fair measure of Lin Y. Cawthra's first book, the science fiction novel "Primus Three", one has to decide what genre it fits into. The decision is not hard: the genre is pulp space opera, with a very strong emphasis on the "pulp".
A classic of literature or science fiction "Primus Three" is not. It carries no novel ideas as regards scientific or social change. It contains no obvious science blunders, but references to science and technology do not extend beyond basic gadgetry. The social issues would not be alien to 19th Century America. The plot reads like an American cowboy western novel, with an upper class big city girl unexpectedly hitting poverty and choosing to work at an isolated and lawless mining operation. Since the book is space opera rather than a western, the mining operation is on a distant planet.
Having classified "Primus Three" as pulp space opera, it would be unfair to measure it by the same standards as one might measure a potential Hugo Award winner. As a reader, all that one can surely require of a "pulp" novel is a level of entertainment, and this "Primus Three" provides. For a long air journey it is certainly more readable than an airline in-flight magazine.
In "Primus Three", the heroine Felicity plunges from the Good Life to Disaster and at the same time several mysteries are presented (the tale of a lost love, and the fact that Felicity's co-workers are vanishing without explanation). Answers to these mysteries can be found by ... buying the book and reading it to the very end.
Of course, the author and the publisher of a "pulp" novel presumably hope for it to make plenty of money. "Primus Three" seems to be oriented in this direction. The book is stated as being the first in a series, and given its cowboy western feel one might imagine multiple successor volumes, with fan readers buying every one. The back cover contains a very clear warning as regards sex and violence. The book certainly contains plenty of both. However, given the clarity of the warning, the genre of the book, and the nature of the cover (the woman in the picture is wearing a lot less than the man), the suspicion is aroused that the warning is perhaps more to boost sales than to caution the potential purchaser.
"Primus Three" is pulp space opera, but this is as important a part of the body of science fiction as the works by the few grand masters. If "Primus Three" and its successors in the long run entertain many people - and they may well do this - then one cannot ask anything more of them. Let us hope that they can also make Lin Y. Cawthra plenty of money too.