grumpy_mr_gruff (grumpy_mr_gruff) wrote in 50bookchallenge,

Book 18: The Green Odyssey by Philip Jose Farmer (1957)

First line:
"For two years, Alan Green had lived without hope. "
Summary: Alan Green is an intrepid space explorer - or he was before he crashed on a backward planet and was enslaved by one of the world's feudal lords. When news of a second spacecraft arrives from a far-away kingdom, Green must escape from bondage and journey across the world to rescue his fellow space-men and escape.

Reaction: I've been meaning to read some Farmer for a while now. I enjoyed the premise of the flawed Sci-Fi Channel adaptation of Farmer's Riverworld series. The Green Odyssey is Farmer's first novel. (He had already been publishing short stories for a decade.) I listened to a public domain unabridged audio version made available at

I wasn't impressed.

To be fair, I don't like most Golden Age sci-fi. Far too often, the "enlightened" heroes (rarely heroines - why is that?) display hilarious early 20th century sensibilities. This book isn't any different. Green's tale could easily have taken place in 18th or 19th century Africa. Imagine: a daring British shipwreck survivor escapes tribal captivity to brave darkest Africa and sail for home. Green's various mis/adventures are transplanted from older adventure pulp fiction and given a thin sci-fi varnish - he engages is daring sword fights in his master's space castle, he rides a pirate ship across a sea of grass, he outwits a tribe of spear wielding natives (while sneering at their primitive superstitions) on a levitating island, he beds the native space women, and finally escapes with his confederates while bemoaning the backward society they are fleeing in a rocket ship.

Farmer, who passed away this spring, was known for pushing the boundaries of sci-fi.  This may be the case, but it didn't feel like it in The Green Odyssey.  This was his first full length novel; maybe publishers wouldn't sign off on less conventional work from an unknown (though Farmer already had a Hugo under his belt).  I read sci-fi for the Big Ideas.  I can even tolerate substandard plots if a book explores interesting premises.  The Green Odyssey has no Big Ideas and a cliched plot.  I'll come back to Farmer at some point - the promise and premise of Riverworld are enough to ensure that - but this book did nothing for me.

Thumbs: Down.
Tags: adventure, fiction, sci-fi

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