THE SPACE AGE by Steve Lyons

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Now this is seriously weird: the back cover blurb bears virtually no relation to the text of Space Age. We've got two theories. Either the blurber couldn't be bothered to wade through the book, or they read Space Age but wrote the blurb describing the book they wish they'd read instead. Either way, we know how they feel.

It's not like the idea in itself is a terrible one; in fact, it's quite appealing. The notion of a constructed environment built around what the future's supposed to look like is a nice doubling back on itself of SF cliches, and Lyons handles this part well. The book therefore starts well, with an intriguing setup. But oh, dear. There's nowhere to go but down.

So you have fun examining the setting and then start looking around to see what happens next. The problem is, though, that virtually nothing does. Two different groups of people fight each other, as they have done for the last nineteen years, for no other reason than that they're two different groups. Yawnarama. No doubt it's supposed to be a weighty sociological comment on humankind's propensity to violence, but we found the whole setup so moronic and pointless that we couldn't work up any interest in the characters at all. The only one with the tiniest spark of life was Gillian, and that's because she was actually doing something interesting, not to mention feeling interesting things like jealousy, instead of brooding like the rest of 'em on how they're going to cream the opposition in the next tedious rumble. Even Sandra, supposedly the voice of reason, is too much of a Juliet/Maria cliche to engage the interest.

There is one group of characters who do look more promising: the so-called cannibals living outside the city. Lyons naturally therefore ignores them for virtually the entire book. Sigh. In fact, we can't work out why they're there at all - they read like a plot thread Lyons abandoned but forgot to tidy up.

The regulars don't save the day either. Fitz reverts to his coward persona, which is a leap backwards after the more subtle characterisation of the previous books. Compassion is utterly wasted: she's offstage most of the time, and when she's there, she's dull. Lyons is clearly trying to give her some gravitas, but succeeds only in making her cardboardy and pompous. And as for the Doctor, well. He's all right, we suppose, but he's never very interesting. How did such a complex and fascinating character as a time-travelling being more than a thousand years old get to be so predictable?

Good start, but Space Age joins the ever-growing pile of EDAs we had to force ourselves to finish. Maybe next time we'll just stick to the blurb.

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