Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Like 50s' Juveniles!, said Tom Swift Retroactively

Review: Under Jupiter by J.E. Hunter


There was a time in the 1950s when juvenile science fiction was bowdlerized, tidied up to suit the narrow sensibilities of adults who bought for libraries. The result was often a Leave It to Beaver home-life sprinkled with robots and rocket ships and characters who swore by "My Universe!" and "Asteroids!" Brave teens fought against the stupidity of adults and the cupidity of criminal gangs with all the last-decade science they could muster, and somehow defeated them without taking more damage than a bruise or mussed hairstyle.

That's Under Jupiter in a nutshell.

Ignore the green-haired 40-year-old woman of the cover illustration; Jiden is a teenager banished from Earth by her widowed father after a drug-hazed near-fatal accident. He packs her onto a three-month-long trip to Europa. Which is apparently inhabited by "Europan's," just one of many frustratingly-consistent misapplications of possessive and plural in this novel. 

Even with that annoyance, though, the more egregious errors are conceptual. Jiden's fellow colonists survive in a chemically hostile environment despite the memory lapses that should have killed any number of them already. Equipment needed for survival disappears, and the adults around Jiden shrug and say "So what?" And aside from a "newly discovered power source, Amminium," the technology available to the Europan colony seems little advanced beyond that of our era. Or maybe 1990.

Worse, Hunter tosses in a historical "Robot Wars" (by way of a high-school class assignment), apparently to explain why the computing power available on Europa is so limited. No further details are given.

Explaining additional conceptual snafus would provide serious spoilers. I offer only one more detail: a pop band called "The Female Asteroids"—as if any women's band post-1959 would choose that as a name, or survive the inevitable hashtags it would morph into. Suffice it to say that I plan to remove the book from my Kindle after this review, and never re-read it.

I lived through the 50s and the Swifties. Once is enough for anyone.