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February 20th, 2003

Hay On Wye has a lot to answer for. While it may have the largest collection of second hand bookshops in a single town this side of the Atlantic Ocean, it's also a place were my reach often exceeds my grasp, where I end up buying books that normally wouldn't have any chance of gracing my bookcase. One such book is Scott Mackay's The Meek.

Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. This is an awful book, full of clumsy characters falling over each other as they try to reclaim a devastated Ceres as a hi-grav nursery for the fledgling asteroid state of Vesta, as they struggle to deal with the rock's existing inhabitants - the people their ancestors tried to kill as they abandoned Ceres prior to trying to sterilise it with nuclear weapons. Can they work together peacefully, or are both sides doomed to repeat history? Poor writing and clockwork plotting wind us though a book full of coincidences and pointless revelations. It's probably best to avoid even thinking about the shoddy science (black holes with fluctuating gravitational fields, nuclear bomb that split into multiple warheads at a set distance from a target...).

But I always like to try to find something food in a book. So what redeeming features does The Meek have? Well, there are some nice ideas about human adaptation to unusual environments and a few possibly interesting characters, but they're lost in info-dump and pointless backstory. If I hadn't been nursemaiding two hour long test cycles, I think this could have been that rare book that never even gets finished. Still, I endured my way to the end, and the Hollywood-ready happy ending.

There's a lot here to indicate that this is a formulaic work, written to entice the Hollywood eye (and possibly run through at least one of those software plot management tools). From the flawed viewpoint character, the arrival on scene of various bad guys who can easily be thwarted, the plot that could survive film industry cuts, and the several dramatic peaks that seem almost ready for the special effects men - especially the scene where vacuum adapted humans sweep off solar panels with brooms in order to allow the hero to fire a beam weapon at oncoming nuclear weapons.

Avoid. Honestly, this book really isn't worth your time...