scifi blog — The Orphaned Worlds

The Orphaned Worlds
Michael Cobley

The language in this book is so appalling I found the thing impossible to read.

Most people, when they buy a cliché dictionary, use it to find annoying phrases to avoid. Mr. Cobley seems to have used one as a resource. Let me give you an idea of just how awful the thing is … here are clichés from the preface:

- In the title, “has gone before”
- “ruthless … enemy”
- “far away star system”
- “fertile … world”
- “swathed in … forest”
- “ancient secrets”

And that’s just the first paragraph. Seriously, the first paragraph! There are so many clichés here that he’s achieved cliché meltdown: I really, genuinely, cannot read this book. I don’t know if this guy is deeply lazy or deliberately being irritating by writing so badly. Whatever, it’s impossible to see the story through the awful awful language. This is Douglas Adams’ “small lump of green putty found under my armpit one morning”.

I reckon he’s trying to copy the style of early pulp science fiction, but he’s not realised that, then, the language may have been rushed and thrown out of a typewriter like smoke from a wheelspin (see, copies are horrible, aren’t they), but the atmosphere of that time made the language fresh and exciting, then. Emphasis on the then. But it’s been copied, copied, copied, so much so that now it’s bloody irritating. It’s descended to deepest cliché: any writer who knows anything about his tradecraft should know how clichés build: they’re once exciting phrases that have grown tired, so tired they’ve fekkin’ annoying. It’s why you have to be wary when reading Fleming: Bond’s not written in clichés, they’re the utterly copied originals. The same goes for pulp sci–fi, except that was never quality writing in the first place.

I should never have bought this book; I was in Foyles at St Pancakes with not much time. It’s the second book in a series, and I bought the original because Iain M Banks recommended it, according to the cover. Don’t touch it; don’t for a moment presume this book has anything like the quality of Banks’ works. I haven’t got a clue why he recommended it. I tried to read that first book, but the language so irritated me that I ended up skimming it just to sneer and giggle at all the fekkin’ clichés this desperately lazy writer invoked. The plot is clichéd too, as I remember, but nothing like in as appalling a way as the language: with non–annoying language it might have earned 2 point something stars.

Now, of course, the guy might be using dire language deliberately. He might so hate his readers he wants to annoy them intensely by pelting them with stuff he’s grabbed out of his grandmother’s toilet. Well, sod that, he can bugger off. The language is so awful that this series, so far, is the worst I’m come across in 40 years of reading SciFi.