Thoughts on “Asteroid Outpost”

“Asteroid Outpost: a Nick Walker, UF Marshal Novel” by John Bowers is the tried and true story of corruption, violence, love, and bad-butt white males in their thirties shooting people. I reviewed the eBook at the Examiner.com with a three out five because I enjoyed reading but it had issues I couldn’t get off my mind.

By Ravven

By Ravven

The story was fairly standard: a young idealistic lawman travels to a new place and confronts a great evil corporation while balancing personal needs. In theory there is very little that could go wrong with that. Heck, add more one-liners and you have most Bruce Willis films.

In reality the story does several things right. There are several intricate and complex characters that see personal growth throughout the story. We get a glimpse of a fantastical world brought to reality with science and the human element. Additionally we get gunfights, mystery, and a splash of sex.

Something still doesn’t sit right with me however. I read it, reread parts, and read it again. Intellectually nothing seemed wrong on the surface but the more I mull it over I can’t get it out of my head. Like splinter under my fingernail, it just kept bothering me.

Then it hit me–something is off with every single female character… They are all victims. There isn’t a single women in the story (except maybe the bartender?)  that the reader gets to know that hasn’t been sexually assaulted, beaten, or in danger of having either done to them. Not only that they are all afraid to ask for help or tell anyone about their fears.

Understandably the situation is rough: the asteroid belt is where every criminal, prisoner, and drifter is sent to do hard labor. From that alone you could expect some rough customers. However in this case every women just whimpers and lets Nick save them.

I wouldn’t want to suggest that the writer damage his story for the sake of making it more politically correct–but there were several characters good and bad that would have made as much sense (if not more) as a woman. Additionally, I would argue that having at least one none victim/maiden in distress in the book would have enriched the reading. Maybe (gods forbid) given the novel a little more depth.

As I write this however I am reminded that this story had several “odd” things to say about relationships, sexuality, and specifically women.

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For one thing Nick Walker trots off his space ship with his space bag into space town (actual descriptions) and begins making friends with all the locals. In doing so he ends up simultaneously dating all the female staff of the local court. We aren’t even talking about handholding though–he gets propositioned and has sex with several of the staff. He doesn’t even really whoo them.

The story we get is that nice guys are in such low supply (even though it’s 6 : 1 ratio for boys to girls) that any nice guy will instantly be given all the ladies. This explanation feels feel and grows weaker as Nick begins punching, kicking, and killing anyone who raises their voice to him. Not that his post isn’t dangerous but I think a psych evaluation would have been merited after the third body in a week sprung up.

Things get weirder from there however. In Chapter 15, Location 2490, we subjugated to a discussion on Love. Nick’s idol, Marshal Milligan, gives us nearly 100 locations worth of exposition on why love, marriage, and sex are all just advertising created to sell products to us. He also compares women to alcohol saying they are good only in small doses about once a week. And then there is this:

“Women, by their very nature, are illogical, irrational, overemotional, and impossible to get along with.”

What the hell was that? Why the hell did that just happen? The main character doesn’t openly share the sentiment but the way it sounds almost like the author inserting his ideas directly into the text. Even if this isn’t what the author thinks after rereading that section I started looking at the female relationships very differently.

I can’t say without asking the author exactly what he thinks, but it troubles me. If this is how the author thinks and how they will continue to write, I would have a hard time reading anything else from them.

Women in science fiction have traditionally broken boundaries and stood on equal footing with men. Outside of hypersexualization (common to anime) this hasn’t been an overwhelming issue for fiction in the last 60 years or more.

But hey–it was just one character right? One old man that monologues for a little too long. I can look past that for the sake of more action-adventure… right?

Reading on we learn two things about Nick Walker. 1) He believes in being such a gentlemen to ladies that he doesn’t allow them to do anything for themselves. He will go out of his way to help a woman but he won’t let her do any of the work. 2) He only sees women as tools. First he only ever talks to women if he can get something out of it. Second that “something” is either information or sex. More than once he blatantly uses a women for something just to turn around and try to have sex with her. Once she is gone he goes on to the next one.

No where is this more relevant than at the end of the novel. Only hours before the end his girlfriend is brutally murdered in a trap set for him, his other girlfriend that he was cheating on has just been sent to jail, and he has just finished killing several people. What does he do? He invites one of the victims he ‘rescued’ to breakfast.

It is just too much. This book actively finds ways to make women seem like weak, useless, sex objects–and that’s not okay. I for one will take a stand and say I don’t like this so I won’t read more of it. If you want to experience it for yourself, the ebook is usually free or runs on sale fairly often and is a short read. You can find it on Amazon or on his website:

http://www.amazon.com/John-Bowers/e/B004UFOT3U/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1373336105&sr=1-2-ent

http://bornnovelist.wordpress.com/

4 Comments

  • John Bowers says:

    Thank you for reviewing Asteroid Outpost. I guess I should be flattered that it made such impact that you were troubled by it. But I think you are giving it too much credit.

    Asteroid Outpost is the first novel in the Nick Walker series, but the third to be published. The first was Sirian Summer (chronologically number 2) and the next was Rebel Guns of Alpha Centauri (number 3). The whole purpose of Outpost was to show how Nick’s career got started.

    The premise is that Nick started out as a gung-ho, slightly hot-headed rookie filled with grand ideals of law and order…then he runs head-on into the real universe. In the later novels he has tamed down a bit.

    Pure formula, from start to finish.

    Maybe this is unusual in today’s politically-correct environment, but there is no message in Asteroid Outpost. It isn’t about “weak” women or macho men, it’s just a story about a rookie lawman trying to find his way and taking a few lumps in the process.

    You took exception to the women on Ceres being victims; think of it this way–what would happen if you threw a few hundred women into a men’s prison? Ceres, in the story, is little more than an unofficial penal colony. With a 15-1 ratio of men to women (half of the men being felons), abuse is going to happen. It’s just a logical conclusion.

    Marshal Milligan’s ruminations about the nature of women is for color only…take it for what it’s worth, if anything at all. Milligan is based on an old man I once knew who told me pretty much verbatim everything stated in that scene. It was entertaining to me at the time and I saw no reason to waste it.

    If you like strong female characters, read some of my other novels (I have 12 at this time, 11 of them written for adults). The Fighter Queen saga is a collection of five novels and the main character in three of them is female. The Starport series (three published, two still coming) features several strong female leads, none of them weak or wimpy. And the other two Nick Walker books feature a secondary protagonist (heroine) who should meet your qualifications as a strong woman.

    On the subject of strong women…do bad things sometimes happen to (otherwise strong) women? I think the answer is yes. In some cases it is the past experience that makes a person (male or female) stronger. Maybe it’s time to stop looking for negative messages in novels and just enjoy them for what they are–mindless entertainment.

    Finally, my brand of “science fiction” isn’t really science fiction at all, just stories set in the future, or in some cases, another universe. Plenty of fiction, not much science. I call it “science fiction that doesn’t TASTE like science fiction”. (How’s that for subjugating a slogan?) In other words, I write stuff that I would like to read, and if others enjoy it as well, so much the better.

    And if the subject matter troubles you, we can always talk about it.

    Again, thank you for taking the time to review my book. All reviews are welcome.

    –John Bowers

  • Al Philipson says:

    I read the book also and I can’t argue with your PC problems. But this isn’t “real life”. If I wanted “real life”, I’d watch the news. Fiction is about getting away from “real life” and escaping to another world. This world appeals to chauvinistic males. So what?

    Would you have griped so much if it was all about “kick-ass” women with wimpy men (role reversal)? Somehow I doubt it. There’s plenty of that fare in fiction too and it also appeals to a segment of the reading population.

    One of the top-selling series of all time is Norman’s “Gore” series. It makes Nick Walker’s world look like a woman’s dream by comparison. BUT IT SOLD because there was a large enough segment of the reading public who wanted to read his stories — even if they weren’t written as well as the Nick Walker books.

    The joy of today’s book and eBook market is that there’s something for just about any taste out there, from highly religious fare to the most disgusting porn you can imagine (no I’m not speaking from personal reading experience).

    Asteroid Outpost is well-written and chauvinistic. If you like a good space western yarn with a cop-mystery plot, then buy it (it’s on sale for 99 cents last time I looked). If not, shop for something else.

  • Daniel says:

    First off–thank you so much for stopping by to comment John.! I really appreciate your input and that really does make me feel better.

    Second–I actually gave super strong women the same criticism for ‘Keeping It Real’ on a different site: http://www.examiner.com/review/book-review-for-keeping-it-real

    I probably just can’t be pleased Al, haha.

    In all seriousness though, I don’t know if it was the political correctness so much as the reality of it. I found the women characters out of sorts with my personal experience of the people I have met during my life.

    John’s mention of the penal colony aspect does help put this into perspective however. I haven’t worked in a prison or near prisoners nor do I know what life is like in those situations (outside of living vicariously in writing and TV). So I appreciate this view point.

    • John Bowers says:

      Thanks for the reply, Daniel. As I said before, all reviews are welcome, as long as they are fair and honest.

      I invite you to review some of my other novels as time permits. Each of my series (Nick Walker, Fighter Queen, Starport) has a different theme and personality. I like to try different things, different kinds of people, so what you see in one series you may not see in the others.

      Thanks for the dialogue. Enjoyed it.
      –John Bowers

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