Book Review: Sean Benham’s Blope

BlopeBlope by Sean Benham

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

BLOPE is an sf story set in an alternate reality in which Taiwan (the Eternally Free Taiwan) is the world power, and its Emperor has won a big chunk of America in a Russian Roulette game against the US President. The Emperor decides to run an experiment based on some screwball theory that the colour of the skin determines your level of intelligence (an actual theory), and decides to split America up into prefectures based on skin tone. The theory is disapproved but the Emperor has a good thing going so leaves the Prefectures as they are. With this as the backdrop, the story features a battle between good and evil, with Satan and the Church battling for control of the new Messiah: Clint Masters and his grandson, Billy.
Benham opts to begin his story with the conclusion and then start from the beginning and build the story up to the same point. This works well in tv series where the viewer has a good idea of who the main character is and what has happened so far in his recent past. It may even work for detective stories in which the point is to give the audience a cliffhanger and then build up to the point, before the protagonist somehow manages to overcome the odds. It does not work in Sf and fantasy and especially in the way Benham has done it, with the opening chapter literally being the conclusion.
Blope’s problems do not end there. Aside from the misjudged opening, you do not meet the protagonist again for at least a quarter of the book, where the author instead decides to flesh out the setting of the novel and the back story that could have been summed up with a little exposition later on. The attempts to be shocking fall short of what is the standard in this sub-genre and rarely exceeds bad taste. The humor also falls flat as it relies on physical deformities rather than character faults. Benham makes a decent effort at giving the protagonist an inner voice, but there are little in the way of eye opening insights beyond the normal teenager with raging hormones.
There were many instances when I felt like putting this book down and starting another, but the strange storyline and decent world-building kept me interested enough to force my way through the average prose and going nowhere quick plot-line.
I wish there was more to commend this book for, but I can’t think of any reason to recommend this as a passable read, except that its definitely one of the stranger stories that I’ve read so far this year.

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