Saturday, November 26, 2005

Manly Banister Does It Again

Burdened with a preponderance of Incomprehensibly capitalized Nouns, non-sensical dialog, and an aimless, desultory plot, Conquest of Earth, by the amazingly, and, I'm sure, accurately named SciFi author "Manly Banister," is a torturous trek through a future where the empty, desert surface of Earth is just about as fun as it sounds. It's also proof that you can't judge a book by its awesome, awesome cover.

Spoilers within, not that it matters. Even if you don't listen to me and you try to read this, the book is out of print anyways. As if that weren't enough, the copy that I have is quickly disintegrating.

We begin at the final examination of one "Kor Danay," Scarlet Sage. We quickly learn that he is pretty much Neo from the Matrix sequels. He can fly, explode things with his mind, harness the power of the sun, that sort of thing. He can sense the presence of other humans by listening for their "vibrating electrons." He can stop time by performing a specialized technique which basically boils down to "thinking really, really, really fast."

A member of The Scarlet Order of Men, his Divisible Mind allows him to harness the powers of the Third Order of Logic. The Men are based in the city of Den-Ver, where they, along with the Blue Brotherhood, plot the destruction and eventual defeat of the invaders and rulers of Earth, the Trisz, with their followers, the Triszmen.

The Trisz, you see, are energy beings who rule the Earth with an iron fist. In the beginning and the back of the book, they are described as "the Trisz... the benevolent Trisz" (Manly is very fond of ellipses), but why they might be described as benevolent is never really explained, as all they ever seem to do is execute people randomly and rule through fear and overwhelming technological superiority.

In any case, they have been stealing all of the water from Earth for centuries, also for reasons that are never really explained. What an entity of pure energy could need water for is beyond me, and, judging from the lack of explanation, beyond Manly himself.

The first section of the book is reminiscent of A Wizard of Earthsea, as Kor is appointed to a priesthood type position in a town on the Mis-Zou River. He has amazing but seldom used powers, and his position is primarily one of guidance and help for the townspeople. Then, he pays homage to the Trisz rulers and falls in love for no reason with the daughter of the human Lord of the town after evading several assassination attempts from the Triszmen.

Manly fools you into thinking that this will be a book about undermining the all-powerful Trisz, working against them in the shadows while evading discovery and capture. A few chapters later, though, Manly gets bored and introduces the quickly discarded gigantic computer that predicts the future. There are some rhyming prophecies involved; I won't bore you with the details, but I'll just say that the phrase "pots and pans" makes an appearance and Kor escapes from the vaporization chamber by teleporting himself back to the underground city of Sub-Den, under Den-Ver. Using his mind.

Kor lives here for a while with his girlfriend Soma, the personalityless love interest mentioned above. The Men perform some experiments on him, and Kor grows bored, much like the reader. He dreams of being a Searcher, like his father. Maybe you are confused, because I sure was at this point. The Searchers are Men who fly around outer space looking for places to put human colonies (since Earth is dying from lack of water). His father is someone who has never been mentioned up until this point. Finally Kor gets the job, and sets off in a spaceship propelled by the power of his mind to a tropical paradise where he honeymoons with his new wife.

It isn't long before she is eaten by a Trisz (who are here too, apparently). Kor goes crazy and the third section of the book begins. This section is about how Kor has amnesia and becomes the "Great One" for a tribe of cavemen. He uses his powers to bring deer and rain to the cavemen, and they worship him and give him cavewomen to have sex with. This continues for several agonizing chapters until Kor kills a bunch of Trisz with volcanoes after his cavewoman dies in labor.

Thus begins the fourth and final section of the epic struggle. Kor is swept away to a space station where he is nursed back to health by his friends from Sub-Den. Here, Kor develops a non-sensical plan to stop the Trisz, who now apparently are from another universe where they ate all the stars. They are now in our universe, stealing all the water from Earth, because, well, maybe they are tired of the taste of stars or something? I dunno, it's not important. The Men start a giant construction project, building giant towers on burnt-out stars, and they fight off a fleet of Trisz starships using Kor's sun controlling powers. Then he goes into the Trisz universe and sucks them all up into his mind. The End.

All of this takes place in a scant 125 pages. The entire book seems rushed and disjointed - it's as if Mr. Banister had four or five great ideas for SciFi books, then, instead of fleshing each of them out and making four or five decent books, he lumped them all together into a single really bad one.

In the end, it comes off as one of those stories that really give SciFi and Fantasy a bad name. It's a mediocre plot, with mediocre characters, dressed up with future of the 50s names (like Kor Danay) and future of the 50s concepts (like "vibrating electrons," "divisible minds," and building-sized computers that can tell the future, but in riddles). Skip it, unless you're doing a research project on early SciFi novels or if you want to punish yourself for something. This could probably make up for kicking a small puppy, or robbing a bank.


At 11/28/2005 10:24:00 AM, Anonymous nic said...

are you sure Manly isn't a pseudonym for L. Ron?

At 11/28/2005 10:26:00 AM, Anonymous nic said...

Also, did you like Earthsea? I read it a while ago and didn't get it.

At 11/28/2005 07:59:00 PM, Blogger mbs said...

yeah i like earthsea a lot. i read it though when i was little, and i can see how it might suffer from the goonies syndrome, where it is only good if you have fond childhood memories of it.

it definitely has a kind of detached writing style which i remember as being very off-putting. i really enjoy the universe though. i think it's actually a big reason for why i liked wind waker so much.

At 11/28/2005 09:29:00 PM, Anonymous nic said...

yeah i remember the the world being pretty cool, that's why i was wondering if it was worth a reread. i think that i only read two of the books, i just didn't get the ending.

At 11/28/2005 09:40:00 PM, Blogger mbs said...

yeah i mean they are pretty good. the third one is a bit different in tone than the previous two, which can be a good or a bad thing depending on your perspective. i remember finding it dissapointing.

apparently there are books 4, 5, and (?) 6 to the series, which came out a lot later than the first three, but i have yet to read these (they never have them in stock).

At 3/12/2006 08:53:00 PM, Blogger Bobo said...

I worked at a used book store for 13 years. Lots of fun stuff. The artwork is great for "Conquest", story...I can't recall, it's been 20 years since I read it. Manly banister also writes how to books on book binding, wood block cutting and things of that sort.
Good guides, mostly from the late '60's.


At 2/23/2011 10:27:00 PM, Blogger R M said...

Another Manly Banister sighting:

At 10/09/2012 08:46:00 AM, Anonymous Mike said...

This is a cute little read if you're into really bizarre and obscure old-school sci-fi. It has all the hallmarks of a first novel, and it is undeniably clumsy, meandering, and disjointed, but then again so was Moby Dick, LOL. As long as you're not too picky or critical, it's a fun read by an amatuer who obviously had more ambition than experience, but in any event certainly had plenty of ambition, LOL. It's definitely no worse than a lot of the other crap that came out in the 30s, 40s, and 50s, and in some ways it's definitely more imaginative. It kicks Flash Gordon's ass, at any rate.

At 3/23/2014 09:09:00 AM, Blogger Dave said...

I don't even recall where I got this little novel, started reading it today and can't put it down! Maybe it appeals to my own grandiosity and my secret life as a Jedi but I am really enjoying it and find it amazingly prescient - ergo - the 'trisz's extrapolators- machines whose 'diet is a daily stream of sociological data that keeps its' mechanical 'mind' stuffed with the latest concerns and affairs of each
district' - Googles AI training program anyone?
But then again I loved Gentleman Broncos!

At 4/25/2016 08:35:00 AM, Anonymous eleish said...

It is a grate book and I have read a lot SYFY . the book is not predictable . also it is very creative.


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