I cannot tell you when I read Helm for the first time. I can tell you that I have read it once a year since then and it has been quite a few years. That in itself makes it so that it deserves a slot on Be a Better Geek. It is by no means a classic. It is a novel of clashing themes. A science fiction novel that does not really contain very much science fiction. A romance that hold little romance, or at least little perfect romance. I could go on but I am sure Vincenzo will tell you what the book is about. Whatever else you can say about helm, I can tell you that it contains the perfect mix of elements to keep me coming back year after year. Everyone else is on their own.
The basic premise behind this book is that the earth has been essentially destroyed due to a nuclear war that was started because of mind-control or something and now a small group of scientists are sending off some colonists with instructions imprinted in their mind (or at least some colonists get imprinted) for how to run a society, essential be literate, clean, and eat well are the plan. This seems like it could be a neat book, and that is just the prologue.
Then we jump forward a few hundred years to one of these colonies. Leland de Laal (terrible name, anime level bad) gets imprinted when he climbs a mountain where the device is kept (the titular helm) and gets all sorts of crazy knowledge about lost languages like German and martial arts skills as well as other stuff that the novel hasn’t covered too much.
Because Leland puts on the helm his father punishes him because this is forbidden and is sent off and learns aikido (which has survived for some reason). This is where my first issue arises in full force. There had been a large us of Japanese words earlier in the book with the translation next to them, I had assumed that when this was with the scientists that it was to give diversity to the group. However, this is a constant problem in the book, sensei and kohai (among other words) can be easily translated and it comes off as this author showing off his knowledge of aikido which just annoys me hear like it does when I see it in translations of anime and manga.
Leland returns and is sent off again to fight in the annual war with the neighboring nation (this seems like a bit of a contrivance). He had already fallen in love with some noble daughter passing through and he stays in the capital while they prepare for war. Here, like in good old Game of Thrones we have to deal with nebbish young boy having sexual feelings, everyone knows this is my favorite thing to read, good god!
There are plenty of elements that I like in this, like stories about nobility and generals and court intrigue, information about troop size and training regiment, a post-apocalyptic setting and plan to save civilization, I love all of these thing then why is it that I this novel isn’t doing anything for me other than causing me brief bits of intense anger. I have to think that it is because our main character is pretty dull. It doesn’t seem to have any flaws and always does the right thing. There haven’t been any big challenges thrown at him thus far. Also while there are elements that I like they aren’t done particularly well, his main rival and the villain of the whole book just seems mustache twirling. This also applies to his father who is more evil and more mustache twirling.
The second half does follow-up and build on what happened in this story. Sadly it did little to change my perception of the book. I wish recommend this book but with a near total lack of character. I never felt that the character could fail at his task which is an important element for me. The sad part is that Leland really has no major flaws that impede his success.
I find that difficult especially where there is a great world for those characters to exist. I would actually like to see more of this world but probably more as a role-playing game source book than another novel.
The next Being a Better Geek is a bit of stretch since I’m going with 3 movies connected by a theme. The theme is World’s Best. For this we will be looking at Lupin III: The Castle of Cagliostro, Golgo 13: The Professional, and Black Jack the Movie.