Paragaea: A Planetary Romance

Chris Roberson's Paragaea: A Planetary Romance garnered a lot of rave reviews when it was initially released in 2006. So much so that I was extremely disappointed not to have had the opportunity to read and review it last year. I was thus excited to finally have a chance to give it a shot.

The novel was advertized as a great old pulp adventure story, grounded in the latest thinking in the fields of theoretical physics, artificial intelligence, genetics, and more. Paragaea is indeed a throwback to those science fiction pulp stories of yore made popular by authors like Edgar Rice Burroughs, Alex Raymond, Leigh Brackett, etc. Roberson demonstrates that he has a fertile imagination by cramming this work with cool and fascinating themes and ideas.

Unfortunately, I felt that Chris Roberson was never quite able to make this book rise above the traditional scifi pulp subgenre. All the tropes are present, from original monsters and creatures and swashbuckling to narrow escapes from certain doom. With lots of action, Paragaea is an entertaining read. And yet, the storytelling, relying too heavily on action in typical pulp manner, precludes this one from reaching a higher level.

The worldbuilding is colorful and interesting, but the author only gives his readers a perfunctory glimpse at the setting. Roberson never truly explores his world in too much depth, which results , in my humble opinion, in a panoply of missed opportunities.

The same could be said about the characters. Both Leena and Hyeronymous Bonaventure showed a lot of promise early on. Sadly, with the emphasis on speeding the story along with countless twists and turns, there is very little character growth. As for the romance aspect of this book, it plays a decidedly minor role in the overall scheme of things.

The premise underlying this tale was engaging. Leena Chirikov, a rational Soviet cosmonaut, finds herself into another dimension shortly after launching into space in 1964. Along with Bonaventure and the jaguar man Balam, she must travel across the strange and exotic world that is Paragaea in search of a way to return to Earth.

If you are craving a novel which is a throwback to those old scifi pulp adventure stories, Paragaea: A Planetary Romance is exactly what the doctor ordered. But if you are looking for a work that rises beyond that, then you are bound, as I was, to be disappointed.

The final verdict: 6.75/10

For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe

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