Into the Book


Crater, by Homer Hickam, opens the Helium-3 trilogy with a story full of Sci-Fi action and fun. But a decent plot stuffed with sci-fi jargon does not make a good story, as Crater unfortunately demonstrates. Read on for the full extent of the terribleness.

A mining colony on the moon. A teen sent on a deadly mission. And a secret bigger than two worlds. It’s the 22nd Century. A tough, pioneering people mine the moon for Helium-3 to produce energy for a desperate, war-torn Earth. Crater Trueblood, a miner, wants nothing more than to mine and eventually become a shift supervisor. But the Colonel, owner of the mines, has other plans for Crater. Accompanied by Maria, the Colonel’s granddaughter, Crater must retrieve a mysterious artifact that may make the difference between life and death for every inhabitant of the moon.

This book comes so close to having all of the elements of a good read. The plot setup is interesting, and the unusual setting is definitely a plus. The scientific descriptions are interesting and detailed (perhaps too detailed in parts, but interesting nonetheless). The initial setup of characters looks interesting. Unfortunately, the characters are what truly let this book down.

Though the initial setup is good, there is absolutely zero development on any character throughout the book. Crater, the main character, is naive to the point of stupidity, and goes through no internal change throughout the course of the story. Maria, his sidekick and love interest, is little better: she flip-flops around the various stereotypical poses of love interest, heiress, Crater’s boss, and annoying brat. (Spoilers ahead) The culminating climax which leaves Maria on her deathbed didn’t even matter to me, because Maria is such a flat character I couldn’t care less. The other characters are little better.

(The one redeeming character in the book is Crater’s gillie. It’s illegal, but ‘it knows that,’ and is a blob of slime mold cells that provides guidance to Crater. The author, frustratingly, kills this biological robot off near the end of the book.)

As if flat characters dropped into an okay plot isn’t bad enough, the book isn’t even well-written. We’re presided over by a narrator who dips into characters heads to retrieve their thoughts at whatever time is convenient. We’re also subjected to pages of telling: this narrator has far too much to say and seems to think that his telling is part of the story, when in fact it kicks the reader out of the story very rudely. Reading Crater felt like reading words on a page rather than being immersed in a living story. There was a lot of potential for a smashingly fantastic sci-fi novel in this book’s setup, but the bad writing just helped to contribute in dragging the book down.

The book is also cheapened with “cool” Sci-Fi jargon that only serve to stand out in their stupidity. Words like ‘heel-3,’ ‘puter,’ (Yes, the author is apparently incapable of using the word ‘computer’ throughout the entire book) ‘pix/vidpix,’ and ‘earthshine’ (Since they’re on the moon, it can’t be moonshine. Right? Right?) are clearly just sprinkled in to punch up a mediocre book with flashy sci-fi goodness, but it comes off as terribly cheesy, especially when the more functional and ‘normal’ variants would do the job even better.

This book has many of the ingredients towards a good setup. The plot begins well (though ends badly in a clumsy attempt to extend the story to a book two), the setting is good, and the characters, on paper, look interesting. Unfortunately, it mixes these ingredients up terribly and emerges with a crummy, half-baked attempt at a story. Crater at least boasts some clean action, but unless you’re willing to overlook the terrible writing and boring characters, it isn’t worth your time.

~ Andrew

Published on 22 April, 2012. Last updated on

1 Comment

  1. Corey P.

    Very helpful review, Andrew. I’ll take care to avoid this one – there are so many other Sci-fi books that do the job better.

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