The Dimensioneers by Doris Piserchia
When I started ForFemFan, I had certain preconceived notions about pulp novels. Mainly that they were straight trash. Okay, maybe not all of them, but still. I expected trash.
Then I read the Trees of Zharka, Killer Pine, Star Gate … you get the point. A lot of pulp that crossed my desk was actually really good, and even the vast majority of books that missed their mark didn’t fail in the way I’d expect. They didn’t read like a bad first draft. They just … missed the mark.
The Dimensioneers is what I expected from pulp fiction.
The story takes off like a shot. Before I have any idea where I am or what I’m seeing, a teenaged girl hops dimensions on the back of a wild lion-mutant that she’s befriended / maybe psychically coerced. They literally fly between these worlds with abandon until they run into a somewhat primitive life-form on a random planet.
“I could see with my own eyes that they possessed a virulent antipathy toward any life form that wasn’t their own.”
That was the best line of the fourteen pages I read.
Anyway, these aliens are piiiiiiissed and unnamed-teenaged girl and lion-mutant then world-hop with purpose: to escape the aliens.
Eventually they do.
And that’s where I decided to quit reading the book.
I admit it didn’t help that my husband had already tried to read this book and gave up within a stone’s throw of the ending because he just couldn’t muster the interest. Even without his opinion in the back of my mind, though, I’d have called it quits.
Everything I read felt like a first-draft of a poorly fleshed-out novel. Two sentences in a row clumsily say the same thing. Action is ambushed on us without any reason to care. I’m still not sure how primitive aliens use sticks to fly and hop dimensions … though at the same time I’m unsure how our protagonist does the same with a lion-creature.
But more than anything, it’s simply bad writing that alienated me:
“Nudging me at the same time that I nudged her, [my lion] kept her eyes on the aliens and growled at them in a threatening manner. She could have snapped one in half with a single bite, but either the uglies didn’t realize this or didn’t care. Up the hill they labored as rapidly as they could.”
I don’t need poetic, provocative prose. I’m actually rather fond of utilitarian approaches to story-telling. But shit like “growling at them in a threatening manner” is not utilitarian. It’s just … bad writing. Perfect for a first draft where you’re getting your thoughts on page and sketching out the flow of the scene. Terrible for a finished book.
And if those sort of glaringly obvious problems went unchallenged at the beginning of a book where things are normally at their most polished … well, I’m not holding out hope that the plot or characterization is particularly well honed.
I’ll give another of Doris Piserchia’s books a shot at a later date, as a quick glance seems to show this as one of her lowest rated books, but I’m going to need time to move on. The Dimensioneers is tied with Dreamrider and Dragon’s Pawn as the worst thing I’ve read for ForFemFan.
At least the unknown teenaged girl isn’t attracted to her lion? You know what, for that, I’ll give it to The Dimensioneers. It’s better than Dragon’s Pawn.
Cover art by Frank Kelly Freas: