Read Birth of Fire by Jerry Pournelle Free Online
Book Title: Birth of Fire|
The author of the book: Jerry Pournelle
Edition: Baen Books
Date of issue: June 1st 1987
ISBN 13: 9780671656492
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 34.27 MB
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Reader ratings: 5.3
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Garrett (who I kept reading as “Beckett” from Innocence because I read all these books too close together) starts me off in the book I wanted to read—on the streets of a future Earth full of gangs and darkness. I can’t help it. I’m drawn to that sort of thing. But early on, Garrett gets in a gang fight and kills a guy and gets shipped off to Mars in this colonization act . . . thingy. I didn’t really care, because I wanted to know more about the state of Earth.
When Garrett was on his way to Mars, I was on my way to the blurb on the back of the book. Is this really what the book’s about? I asked myself. Well, half of my back cover was ripped off by my son on one of his book rearranging binges, which are the bane of motherhood. I’ve decided.
But wow, look at that. Right there on the back, it calls Garrett a Marsman. Shit. And looky there on the front cover: Mars needs mercenaries! Double shit. I gotta work on my skills of observation.
Okay, so I settle back in, thinking that if I had only known what the book was going to be about, I might have enjoyed it more. This is when I fully realized that this book was in first person. Another one? I closed it, glared at it, and tried to recount the number of first person POVs I’ve read lately.
Wait, this is a plot recap. Not an outline of my reading activity.
Garrett gets to Mars and hooks up with this outfit that’s trying to win independence from Earth because they get the hell taxed out of them and have all these horrible restrictions. He also manages to get him a woman (yes, that’s exactly how I’d put it) in a land where women are scarce.
Not only that! But he manages to get it on with some geologist chick on the side, and then Erica finds out and stays with him! On a planet full of men that would do anything for the hand of a woman like Erica!
Ugh, my head hurts.
And I’ll tell you what I really think:
Scenery/Setting: This is cool. I mean, I wanted to stay on Earth because of the brief glimpse I got of it. It was interesting and I wanted to see more than just what Garrett was into at the moment. This is because I felt there was more. That’s important. That’s good stuff.
I attribute my ability to get over the fact that the book picked up and moved to Mars on Pournelle’s depiction of Mars life. The cavernous “city” with its tunnels and cubbies was fantastic. Some of the outside residences, which is where Garrett lived and worked, were foggy, but the vehicles they used for getting around made up for that. Pournelle thought a lot about how people that lived in airlock might live day to day, right down to keeping their helmets near them at all times in case of depressurization.
This is cool stuff. Unfortunately, that’s not the whole story.
Characters: Boo. Boo! But it is a rare treat to get awesome characterization in sci-fi. Orson Scott Card doesn’t only come to mind, he takes a chair and gets comfortable. Him and . . . no, that’s pretty much it as far as published authors go. That’s not to say they’re all bad; just not great.
Since we’re in Garrett’s head, he’s pretty good. He reminds me of what I think every man wanted to be in the late 1970s and early 1980s, should they have been shipped off to Mars. His vernacular and attitude was an idealized version of Han Solo meets a young and inexperienced John Wayne. Which, quite frankly, scared the hell out of me.
He had a quip now and then that tempted me to think about chuckling, but it was too obviously put in there to make me do just that. I can’t be chuckling all willy-nilly when some ex-gang Marsman wants me to.
I kind of hate Erica. From the beginning she was much more of a fantasy than a real person. Boo, Pournelle, boo. You know, sci-fi had female fans, too.
Oh wait, this was written the late 1970s. I guess there weren’t that many back then.
Plot: Hey, lookit that; it’s a pocket book. The plot’s going to be predictable, quick, and not too deep. And that’s what it is. By the time I settled into the fact that we were on Mars, I knew everything that was going to happen and I wasn’t worried enough to really care about how it was all going to happen. I think if I were a dude and I was reading this around the time of Star Wars, it would have been great.
But I am not a dude and we are in the post-Episode One era, which is a sad, sad place to be. I need more to plot than “Garrett needs to establish his own station where he can grow stuff and make stuff and carve out his own life with Erica, but he also needs to help his other station-owning friends rebel against the government so they can stop being oppressed. They do it.”
Overall: For those of you who have never heard me rant about Jerry Pournelle and Larry Niven, well, you’re not going to now either because I don’t have the time or energy. They co-write a lot of books. I always pick them up. They have big problems. Not so much writing problems as much as their morals generally piss me off.
But I discovered something a while back: Larry Niven, by himself, has an imagination that rules out his science-nerd grasp of personal relationships. (No offense to science nerds—I know that some of them are quite socially adept.) I wanted to know what Pournelle was adding to the mix. And I’ve found . . . nothing.
The lingering questions: What the hell is the matter with me?
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Read information about the authorDr Jerry Eugene Pournelle was an American science fiction writer, engineer, essayist, and journalist, who contributed for many years to the computer magazine Byte, and from 1998 until his death maintained his own website and blog.
From the beginning, Pournelle's work centered around strong military themes. Several books describe the fictional mercenary infantry force known as Falkenberg's Legion. There are strong parallels between these stories and the Childe Cycle mercenary stories by Gordon R. Dickson, as well as Heinlein's Starship Troopers, although Pournelle's work takes far fewer technological leaps than either of these.
Pournelle served as President of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America in 1973.
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