Science Fiction Though the Decades

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

1970: The Jupiter Legacy (Harrison, Harry)

Fast-paced plague no-brainer (3/5)
From July 22, 2011

I only know the works of Harry Harrison through reputation, one could say, and through his fairly flat collection in Prime Number. Some say his novels are fun or youthful, which strikes me as another way of saying that he doesn't take a plot all that seriously. Jupiter Legacy (also irksomely published as Plague from Space and The Jupiter Plague) is exactly as I thought it would be: a plot based on one man, a big problem with no regard to either the start or end of the novel. So, in this regard the novel could be said to have met my expectation and therefore give it 5-stars. And yet I was hoping for my preconceptions to be false and was met with a fairly cardboard-like novel, easily read in a few days without giving much thought to it.

Rear cover synopsis:
"The space probe returned carrying a cargo of writhing death! No form of life on Earth seemed safe from the savage epidemic brought back from a distant planet. Quickly and mysteriously it spread over the earth's surface, drawing its victims into a slow and violent death. If Earth was to escape annihilation, the horrible plague had to be stopped! But there was so little left to track down the cause of the Jupiter Legacy!"

The line where it says, "Quickly and mysteriously it spread over the earth's surface, drawing its victims into a slow and violent death" is as faulty as the wiring in my condo. The plague was limited to New York and the area of New England rather than the entire earth's surface and the plague killed its victim rather quickly, within the day... nothing so slow or violent about a fever and some boils.

One thing Harrison has down to an art (mmm, that's a bit of a stretch) is plot flow. It starts with a bang when Sam, our intern doctor and to-be heartthrob is raced to an accident involving a dismemberment and being raced back to the hospital to be warned of a pending danger of unknown proportions at the airport... which is where the behemoth spaceship has returned to Earth while crushing one plane and burning another to a cinder. Sam observes the astronaut descend from the ship and fall. Caring for him, Sam sees blisters around his face and neck with a fever of 105. Knowing he's near death, Sam and his love-interest-to-be (of course) give the man a notepad where he write something like "sick in ship." I considered this a key in understanding WHAT was inside the ship and was especially interested when the police closed the ship off. In the end, the message played no importance and it was all fairly predictable.

For some added flavor, Harrison has thrown in some medical terminology, which, as a fan of anatomy, I just love. Harrison also added some more ridiculous elements of extremely large handguns with calibers of .50 and 0.75 inches, which are ALL recoilless, the author must note. Other elements of science fiction include some ideas about traffic control, Mach 5 air transport and life on a Reef in Jupiter.

If you're looking for a fast-paced requiring very little brain power and a few annoyance (i.e. the ending), then look no further than The Jupiter Legacy. Crichton's The Andromeda Strain, while different in format, was actually a better read. This book, however, is going back to the second-hand books store.

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