This is my second brief post about reading for the Planetary Awards. The February 14th deadline is almost here, so don’t forget to make your own nominations. Yesterday, I posted about Embers of War and why it wouldn’t get my nomination. Today, I’m posting about Smoke Eaters and why it won’t, either.
Firefighters versus dragons is a fun premise. I enjoyed the characters and storyline of the novel, and can’t remember any boring parts that lost my attention. That makes it sound like Smoke Eaters should be on my nomination short list, and it would be, except … the author apparently has a problem with religious people, and felt compelled to insert anti-religious diatribes in an otherwise enjoyable story.
First, a male religious character (who seems to have no purpose in the story other than to make religious people look bad) has an adulterous affair. When the woman later dies during a dragon attack, he is distraught, and joins the ministry quickly enough to be the pastor at the woman’s funeral, where he announces the affair and starts a fistfight with the woman’s husband. In case this example didn’t convince you that all religious people are horrible, the main character then has an internal monologue to tell you so. The author needed to both show us and tell us this important piece of information, despite it having nothing to do with firefighters or dragons.
In Smoke Eaters, Canadians are so concerned with endangered species that the entire nation starts worshiping dragons — dragons that have turned most of the Earth’s surface into an apocalyptic wasteland. Environmentalism is pretty much a religion with many people these days, but I don’t think that particular religion would last through homes being burned and family members being eaten. What makes no sense in the book is this new religion adopting negative elements of past religions, from the self-flagellation of medieval Catholicism to the human sacrifice of ancient societies. Once again, the author takes the opportunity to both show us that religion is evil and worthless, and then outright tell us so via internal monologue.
Normally, I would have picked up the sequel to this book right away. Now, I don’t think there’s any discount level deep enough that I’d be willing to bite. I expect to turn on the news and see reporters, Hollywood actors, and university professors spewing hate at me for my religious beliefs. I don’t expect to spend my time and money on a book and receive the same treatment. Sci-fi/fantasy authors, you don’t have that many readers left. You can’t afford to piss all over a large percentage of them.