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Book Review: I, Weapon by Charles Runyon (1974) - Elf M. Sternberg
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Book Review: I, Weapon by Charles Runyon (1974)
I read this book because it was listed as one of the two most "deeply sick and depraved" books of SF, at least according to the readers of rec.arts.sf.written. Unfortunately, it's not really that depraved. Or if it was, I was so overwhelmingly bored by it that the supposed sickness didn't make much of an impression.

Perhaps the best thing I can say about I, Weapon is that it isn't a novel at all; it's the plotter's synopsis for a Marvel comic about the same year as the book. Doing a synopsis of the synopsis will be difficult, but here goes: it is The Future. The Morlocks-- excuse me, the Progs-- live on the Moon and on habitats about Jupiter. Their agents, the Stafi and Landed, do the grunt work and raise the Eloi-- excuse me, the Unguls-- humans so mutated after Terra's first nuclear war that they are fit only as foodstock. Humanity had spread throughout the galaxy, only to be forced back to a few dozen worlds by the villainous Vim. A desperate Prog, consulting The Computer, learns that the only possibility of success is a breeding cycle to create a godlike human who can crush the Vim. The first half of the book deals with her struggles to reach her goal: she has to collect the sperm of an Ungul, an Unchanged, and an "Evolutionary Variant", mix them all together, and then carry the product to term herself all "the old-fashioned way, without the use of a breeding tank or gene equipment," The Computer tells her. The end of the book is an unchallenging narrative of her offspring's heroic success after success. I won't spoil the ending, such as it is, for you.

Is it "depraved?" It certainly may have been once upon a time: we have flat, drab, colorless passion meandering across the page as our blue-skinned, bug-eyed heroine (the lights are low in those sublunarian bases to preserve power) mates with these various creatures. Runyon takes particular delight in displaying the ranches where human-stock meat is raised and butchered, and spends inordinate amounts of time when the hero starts making it with a Vim female.

So: you got your cannibalism, your pornography, your vague sense of bestiality. There's even a snuff scene for those with that kind of bent. There's a hint of lesbianism when the logic-driven Prog heroine tries to describe her feelings for her oh-so-useful-and-beautiful (illegally gengineered to be a sex toy, but now free and educated) Stafi assistant, but then puts them aside as irrational and never acts on them-- pity, as the Stafi seems to be the only real human in the place.

But it's all so boring! Runyon is a complete hack; his exposition goes on for page after page after page. His dialogue is completely "as you know, Bob." When the hero gets into Vim territory he discovers that he is carrying a "psychic inhibitor"; without it, he is a God and an unimaginative one at that, and the book is really over when Runyon has another 80 pages or so to fill. Terrible read.

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