Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Book Review: The Broken Cycle

    After his many misadventures in “The Hard Way Up,” John Grimes is given a mission nobody wants with a ship captained by a guy who really doesn’t want John around. But things go off the rails pretty quick, with John and a tough lady cop stuck together in a dilly of a pickle.

A. Bertram Chandler published “The Broken Cycle” eight years later than the stories in “The Hard Way Up,” and it’s clear tastes had changed a bit, or the author had become a bit more untethered. There is some strong language and some semi-graphic sex. Where earlier Grimes stories would have been solidly PG, this book roves into more R-rated territory. And the sexism is still there, even if it’s been tempered a bit by modernity.

    The story is fast paced and mostly unexpected. There was a point where I could tell there wasn’t much left of the book, and I had NO idea how things could possibly wrap up. Often, I had no idea where Chandler was taking me. One of the strengths of these Grimes stories is they read fast. That helps to gloss over some of the shortcomings. In the case of this book, there really isn’t much story or seemingly much point. It’s just some stuff that happens. It’s kind of like a filler episode from a TV series. I don’t feel like anything of note was advanced, but it’s still perfectly enjoyable to read it while waiting for a better story (hopefully) in the next book. Had the book been longer or less readable, with no more content, it might have become a grueling slog.

    I’m taking a break from John Grimes now that I’ve finished the first omnibus in which I found this. Baen published “To the Galactic Rim” a few years ago as the first part in their complete reprinting of Chandler’s Grimes stores. Fans of classic science fiction should go get these. While I didn’t love this particular book (I enjoyed it just fine), the omnibus in general is great stuff.

-Matthew J. Constantine

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