Hammerfall by CJ Cherryh

April 30, 2004 at 12:00 am | Posted in 2 stars, Book Reviews, Science Fiction | Leave a comment

Hammerfall has decent character work, an interesting world, and the solid mechanics you expect out of a veteran author. Unfortunately, all this is in service of an extremely simple plot and a setting that bored me and I suspect will bore you. If you liked Cherryh’s Faded Sun books a lot, run to the bookstore to get this. If you thought Dune would have benefited from less intrigue and more tramping around in the desert, this may be your book.

As a side note, any SF author wanting to write a story about a messianic prince running around the desert had better spend a long time thinking about how to keep the reader from making the comparison, because stastically speaking it’s highly unlikely the book will stack up in most people’s minds. Dune is “only” a borderline great book, it’s not impossible to do better, but you’re competing not with Dune but with people’s memories of it.

But the real problem this book has it tells a pretty good story that is about 20 pages long. My paperback edition is over 400 pages long. The rest is filled either with the mechanics of safely traversing the desert or the main character’s visions and his angst regarding his situation. While none of this is bad, per se, and in fact I greatly respect Cherryh’s ability to come with various events and character situations to pad out the journey, the fact is it’s not in service to the story. When the main character sets out on one of his several desert journeys, the reader knows It Won’t Be Easy, But He’ll Get There. And so he does. There’s no feeling of danger, since while the bit players are in grave danger the main characters can be assumed to be too central to the story to be mowed down by the odd dust storm. If the last 10 pages of the 20 page plot were really great, mindblowing stuff, then maybe I’d say it was worth it. Unfortunately they are not.

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