"The War Against The Chtorr:" A Review of the Series (Updated)

John Many Jars
John Many Jars's picture

I’ve finished reading The War Against the Chtorr series, unfinished as it is.

I think they are probably best read, with long pauses between them, as they were originally published. By the end of the "last" book, I was sure tired:
Tired of worms, tired of war, tired of annoying self help gurus. Tired of... every... damn..... character...

Mr. Gerrold writes books about how to write, one of which I have read. I can't remember if he mentions this in his book about writing, but one element that is usually helpful is to have a main character that the reader likes, or can relate to.
With skill, this isn't always necessary, but it sure helps.

The main character, Jim McCarthy, starts out as a fairly likeable nerd, and manages to maintain some sort of likeability though the first book, which reads like Mr. Gerrold mugged Heinlein. This makes the first book the best of the bunch. It seems he had an editor that objected to some of his, well, excesses. By the time we reach book three, the editor is long gone, and the main character has morphed into a sort of worm-slaying William Calley.

Almost every other character hates him, or at least anyone with any sense does. A pattern soon develops, where McCarthy leads a mission, gets something important apparently wrong, people die, then turns out to be right, and has a big soul searching tantrum, repeat.

It's written very much like a TV show in that respect. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

Of course, all the characters who hate him are right to do so, as he is an unbearable, sanctimonious ass. Still, they are always proven wrong. In the real world, someone would have fragged the guy, in about a week.

All the other characters are one dimensional “red shirts”, except for Cornel Lizard Tirelli (who unfortunately isn't a real or even a space lizard), who is the only other character with any depth, but you can't like her, because she is so blind she can't see what an ass Jim is.

The alien ecology is fun for a while, but the speed of the reveal slows way down. The xenoforming aspect is actually really impressive and imaginative. The problem is, it never feels like it is going anywhere after the second book. By the fourth book, he's fallen back on what turns into (for me anyway) an annoying device, quoting some army manual about the ecology, instead of describing it. Why? He's too busy marrying his main characters on a LUXURY ZEPPELIN TRIP INTO HELL! No, I'm not kidding. They even get silver-service.

I don't understand what the point of the third book was at all. It's all about some sort nonsensical scientology like self help nonsense that is about as interesting as a bus ride to Detroit and presented in the most unbelievable way possible. He opens this book with a pretentious moan about how he doesn't want to catch anyone using "MODE" training in real life. Like, yeah dude, whatever. Surfs up! L Ron Hubbard, at the height of his powers, couldn’t have sold this stuff.

Remember the painter guy that they had on PBS who taught people how to paint? About half way through the how to paint program, he'd have a pretty nice painting. Then he'd go apeshit and wreck the thing overdoing it. That's what's happened to this book series.

The other surprising thing concerns the excesses. These books all showcase gay characters, and there is nothing wrong with that. I mean, one of my children is gay. He does take it a bit too far though, in places. Many. Places.

The interesting thing is, if this is supposed to be some sort of break though gay people in Sci-Fi thing then it is a massive failure. Why? Because all the gay characters, except for the main character who is simply Bi and not very discerning either, are one dimensional disposable “red-shirts” right out 1970's central gay casting.

You know, there's a bitchy queen that flounces around like Mr. Humphries (see “Are You Being Served?”, BBC), and, the buff hot do anything rent boy, and ... well, you get the idea.

Just about all of his other work that I have read has been better characterized. Almost everything I've read of his is some sort of Heinlein pastiche. John Clute, in the Encyclopaedia of Science Fiction wrote of him: "There is a growing sense that DG might never write the major novel he once seemed capable of – not because he has lost the knack, but because he refuses to."

Unfortunately, I think John is right. And it is a shame, because the man is a very talented writer.
I think if David quit spending time on Facebook bitching me out for staring rumours that he got hit by a train, or taking the time to be annoyed at me for sending him my proposal to reshoot EarthStorm (well, some of my "plot" was stolen from EarthStorm, which I've never seen) he might actually get some work done and write that novel. . . .

But who am I to complain, I have loads of pieces of half written things all over the place.
I plan on taking on the Star Wolf series next, whatever that is. In the mean time, I'm going to read The_Road_To Wellville which has been sitting on my shelf for ages.

I'm going to keep bugging Gerrold for the next book in the Chtorr series though. Something about it makes me want to go on reading it. I don't know what it is. It's like heroin. Am I missing the point? Is this whole thing some sort of farce?

Perhaps they should create a War Against the Chtorr television show, but done up as a comedy instead? Like MASH. With worms. C'mon, David, lets make magic. We love you baby!

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