1965 The Wanderer
Read 2/2013, reviewed 4/13/2013
This is disaster porn at its best. It reads like an Irwin Allen or Roland Emmerich script. The story line has a planet suddenly appearing the orbit of the moon, disrupting the earth by its gravitational force. There are a few major characters who have major plotlines. In addition, there are lots of minor characters with lots of disparate subplots. There are so many characters, I could easily see it as a poster for a 70’s disaster film with the line of stars headshots at the bottom, like Towering Inferno, Earthquake, and Airport.
I liked the basic premise. However, the execution eventually just became boring. Its appeal is mostly to my love of disaster porn films.
I had a love/hate relationship with Tigerishka, the alien. She was too cartoonish. The name itself is too hokey. The characterization was obviously an anthropomorphism of the basic housecat: sexy, devious, toying with her prey. To me, it is the big mistake of the hack science fiction writer. Leiber creates an alien based on human experience and interpolation of a similar creature, here, the housecat. It assumes an extrapolation from an earth creature, rather than the result of an extraterrestrial evolution. I find this to be just trite. There are other examples of where it works much better: Nessus and Speaker-to-Animals in Ringworld. Yet I still liked Tigerishka, particularly the development of her relationship with Paul.
I liked the science of the book: the destruction of the moon and the geophysical disruption of the earth. I actually thought the disaster descriptions could have been more extreme. And given our world’s recent experience with major phenomena like the 2004 Indonesian and 2010 Japanese earthquakes and tsunamis and volcanism in the past few decades, if this book were written now, it would probably have reflected more devastation. As an example, compare the disaster sci-fi of the 50s and 60s with the Emmerich films “The Day After Tomorrow” and “2012.”
I gave the book 2 stars because that seems to be the average rating of just about all disaster porn movies. Kudos for effects, boos for the soapiness.