Book Review: Buck Rogers: A Life in the Future by Martin Caidin (1995)

I bought my copy of this book at Downtown Books for $3.95 because I was feeling extravagant, and because I liked the second television show. TSR, the former role playing game company commissioned this book to promote its former role playing game, which was based not on the television show but on the original books from the 1930s (but not the film serial). So I read the book bearing in mind the comparisons that sprang from its precedents.

And the book lacks.

Of course it’s a role playing game novel. It features five adventures put together into a loose campaign, wherein Buck is updated from a World War I pilot to a 1990s ace who is purposefully suspended by a secret military program. After his revival in the 25th century, each of Buck’s adventures goes through the common RPG cycle: going to the store (wherein Buck and the reader are innundated with technical detail to increase the plausibility of the 25th century technology); briefing (wherein Buck and the readers receive the salient explication laid out by the dungeon master superior officer); adventure (wherein Buck does neat things in a progression of exotic locations); and debriefing (wherein Buck receives his experience points and resulting promotion in level/rank and the dungeon master superior officer gives the hook for the next adventure). Unfortunately, in Caidin’s presentation, this cycle is too obvious, and the formula too patented and used with appropriate license from the company that owns all role playing gaming concepts.

So it was a brief, mildly entertaining read crushed under the weight of its own rule books and descriptions of the items, back story, and rules of the game.

The back of the book features a reprint of the original Buck Rogers origin from the 1930s, which provides a means of comparison between the eras. So the book’s best impact is as a source of an alternate retelling of the myth. But it’s not a very good primary source to enjoy on your own.

One final note: Defense of Michelle Malkin‘s thesis from her new, often-assailed book In Defense of Internment: The Case for Racial Profiling in World War II and the War on Terror comes in the darndest places. Here’s a bit from page 309, wherein the sudden spy revelation, well, reveals the spy to be Japanese:

    The Japanese used secret agents on a long-term basis. They would plant their people in a foreign land for years. They were part of the local community, a fifth column, so to speak. Then, when Japanese forces made their moves, they always had amazing knowledge of defenses and how to get through them. By now it was getting obvious we had some kind of agent on our hands.”

Undoubtedly, this is one of the reasons why the reviewers for this book call it RACIST!!!! I’m not historical scholar, so I cannot attest to the historical accuracy of the assertion, but I attest that the book’s not racist. It presents different racial groups such as the Mongols and the Chinese as different, with different agenda that oppose the main characters. Antagonists of another race or ethnic group is not racism in and of itself, but keep trying, kids.

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