“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.
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.
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: