Tuesday, February 28, 2012
William Shatner's idea for describing the future in TekWar (1989) to to have plastic everywhere – plasglass, plascast, even just straight plastic – and make the robots/androids/cyborgs have shiny metal parts. He replaces newspapers and magazines with fax editions (this may have seemed like a good idea in 1989, but it seems extraordinarily shortsighted now), but books are still printed – just on-demand. Most importantly, the hero, Jake Cardigan, has contacts everywhere and isn't devastated that his wife and son are nowhere to be found after he is released from prison.
Mostly, I was interested in how much of what the recent books I had read would be present in Shatner's work. The answer is too much. Descriptions are usually either too detailed (in the wrong places) or skipped over altogether. There is little editing to keep him from using the same wording or phrasing repeatedly – everything happens "at exactly" a given time. Always. Minor or background character pop-up for almost no reason and contribute nothing to the story. The characters from South of the Border never learned the English terms for yes, please, or nothing. Worst, the central motivation that seems to be driving Cardigan is never investigated or resolved.
Shatner clearly knew that setting his novel in the realm of Sci-Fi would be an easier draw for his fans. But his would-be hard boiled detective is set adrift in an almost cartoonish existence with no emotional anchors. Cardigan has relationships with all kinds of people, but none of them feel very authentic or for a purpose other than allowing Shatner to avoid having to describe how investigations actually are conducted. Even as light genre fiction, TekWar is a bad offering. But it didn't cost me anything other than the two days it took to read, so it could have been much worse.