Wretchedly bad sci-fi stories?

Okay, there are threads about favorite movies, favorite sci-fi storylines, bad novels … my turn.

Anyone want to name some sci-fi stories that were just so outrageously bad that you couldn’t stomach it? I’m talking about stories beyond the usual bad writing/acting/storytelling stuff; I mean stuff so bad that you’ve thrown it across the room (figuratively or literally).

I’ll nominate two novels to start things off:

  • Chung Kho: The Middle Kingdom, by David Wingrove. It’s supposed to be about a story about the future takeover and dominance of China, but I found it to be nothing more than one-dimensional racist stereotypes coupled with some really disgusting ideas. All the main Chinese characters are Ming-the-Merciless backstabbers, while all the Caucasians are brave, repressed souls resisting the tyrannical Empire. All this, and we get wonderful crap like the villian who plucks out a girl’s eyeballs, fills the sockets with maggots, then sews the eyelids shut. Am I the only one wondering why this book is popular, or has sprouted a bunch of sequels?

  • Area 51, by Robert Doherty. Not as disgusting as Chung Kho, but twice as dumb. Throw in every conspiracy theory, alien coverup, pyramid secret, and crystal power bruhaha into the storyline blender, then set on “puree”. One-dimensional characters, hackneyed dialog, bland writing, and convoluted plot twists that make Independence Day look brilliant by comparison. And, again, I’m left wondering why this book is considered a best-seller, at least to the point where it spawned three sequels…

Okay, your turn.

Top choices:

  1. “The Ultimatum to Mankind” by Zeev Dickman. Here’s a review.

  2. “The Pleistocene Redemption” by Dan Gallagher. I haven’t actually read it (though I have a copy), but its awfulness is legendary. Here’s a good analysis.

(BTW, if you want to see some reviews of truly awful SF, read [url"http://www.sff.net/people/doylemacdonald/reviews.htp"]Red Mike’s Reviews.)

  1. The Eye of Argon. Of course. I lost it when Grignr the Barbarian (from Ecordia, which made him an Ecordian – which should show all aspiring SF writers that they need to
    sound out their made-up words) killed two armed guards with a rat’s pelvis.

Of course, all of these were self-published works, so they probably shouldn’t count. For books put out by a major publisher, I can think of three that made me want to toss the book against the wall:

  1. “Memoirs of an Invisible Man.” The hero was such an utter moron. I gave up when he spent a half hour watching the police set a trap for him and didn’t think of leaving until they had everything into place.

  2. “Split Infinity,” by Piers Anthony. False advertising. This was a novel that was supposed to blend SF and fantasy – something I’d love to see, but he merely alternated chapters between the two. Plus the book was bogged down by some of the dullest and puerile psudophilosophy in the history of literature.

  3. “God Emperor of Dune,” by Frank Herbert. Makes the pseudophilosophy in “Split Infinity” seem as sophisticated as Immanual Kant. Whenever he came close to actually having something happen in the book, he caught himself and went on for another dozen pages of philosophy. (And I did like Dune, BTW).

Badly written knock-offs of Burroughs, with a horrifically sexist/misoginistic plot(?) line. Made me feel slimy for just being male. I managed to finish about 75 pages before I was so disgusted that I actually fed it to a shredder (Clyde, the tech-manual-munching-monster). I spot-checked a couple of others: More of the same.

Late Heinlein, Especially Glory Road and Number of the Beast: Lotsa ink burned on pointless ‘philosphy of life’ and other random wanderings. Too bad. I really liked his early stuff.

All time stinkers, huh?

Leo Frankowski’s newest: Fata Morgana. I am hardly a P.C. type, but the discussion between the two heroes about how women are dumber than men because their heads are smaller and how blacks/African Americans/etc change their name every few years as part of a conspiracy to confuse liberals had me repeatedly tossing the book across the room. As an aside, this is a new book, not something written 100 years ago. Frankowski also, in another one of his books had a “Rape! It’s Funny!” sequence that similarly pissed me off.

or, if you just mean MST3K type bad, there’s one “The Day They H-Bombed LOS ANGELES” that was ungodly bad.


Dan Gallagher’s shamelessness is also legendardy. He reportedly somehow managed to get a few people to nominate “Pleistocene” for the Hugo award. Hundreds and thousands of titles get nominated, placing them on the first-ballot. Of course, “Pleistocene” made it no further, once a few people who could read actually read it. But Gallagher started posting around the net that his book was a “Hugo finalist.” :mad: :mad: :mad:

Possibly matching the sheer wretchedness of “Pleistocene Redemption” is Gene Steinberg’s “Attack of the Rockoids.” (He’s coauthoring it with his young son; it shows.)

On his website he allows people to download a sample. It’s some of the most unintentionally hilarious stuff I’ve ever read. The protagonist, a former member of Special Forces, is sneaking onto a secret base at night. When the author doesn’t know how to transition from once mini-scene to another, he has the protagonist knock himself unconscious. At one point the Special Forces man trips on a manhole cover and knocks himself out cold on a field of gravel. One happy coincidence after another allows this idiot to make his way onto the super-secret base. To what end? Apparently some beautiful green alien babe (complete with miniskirt) is scouring the universe in search of him. It’s llllllove!

His website has a message board for feedback, but Mr. Steinberg allows only the most gushing comments to remain. Then he crows about how his book gets nothing but the most fantastic feedback.

Click here: Attack of the Rockoids–They’re Landing!

Prior hyperlink didn’t seem to work. Try this:


I agree with RealityChuck. God Emporer of Dune is one of the worst pieces of garbage foisted on the public, but I include all the Dune novels in that category (and yes, I read them all except for the most recent piece of afterbirth, because I kept hoping they would get better and I would see what everyone else was marveling about).

In general, anything that has III, IV or V in the title is an indication the author has gone to the well once too often & what you’re about to read is a piece of crap.

One of my rules is to stay away from any piece of SF that ends “and the name of the planet was Earth”

Star Wars: The New Jedi Order: Vector Prime - The shittiest Star Wars book ever written. The only reason I bring it up here is because I’ve sworn to insult this book at every opportunity. Worse than Children Of The Jedi, the only thing that stands out in this book is the fact that Chewbacca dies (!!!). It was a cross between The Truce At Bakura and The Black Fleet Crisis, with almost no deviation (strange aliens appear, hate humans, swear holy war, Jedi save the day), with aspects of the Zerg from StarCraft (the aliens use living creatures instead of machines).

Okay, carry on with all the real sci-fi…

L. Ron Hubbard. Mission Earth. I’ve expressed my feelings for this 10 volume piece of excrement before, and I’m still trying to get it out of my head, so I’ll say no more. It set a new definition of “awful” in my mind. Shudder

The first TekWar book by William Shatner; I don’t remember the precise title.

This is the only sci-fi book that I have put down and abandoned halfway through. (Actually, I had to take it back to the library; they wouldn’t let me shred it.)

I managed to finish Battlefield Earth. I never got ahold of the complete Mission Earth series. Thank the Goddess.)

And yes, I am aware that the term “sci-fi”, unlike the term “SF”, is an insult.

Re: Pleistocene

It was the Nebula Award, not the Hugo. And it wasn’t a nominee. The book made the preliminary ballot, which means 10 people gave it recommendations. However, to be a nominee, you need to be on the final ballot.

Of course, the book never should have been on the prelim. Gallagher mailed copies to everyone in SFWA and managed to get 10 to recommend. Since some SFWAns consider a recommendation nothing more than “take a look and judge for yourself,” he was able to find 10 willing to go with it.

Re: Attack of the Rockhead

Ah, yes. Gene Steinberg. I actually read the excerpt from the web page; it is worse than Pleistoscene.

Please, sir, may I make a nomination? The worst book I have read (and finished) in 20 years of doing sci-fi has to be Achilles Choice by Niven & Barnes. A bunch of jumpy crap about genetically engineered athletes. What was the worst for me was that this book followed “Dream Park”, which was phenomenal.

I have a habit of putting books down after 20-30 pages if I’m not getting into the story. I’m sure there’s quite a few clunkers I can’t remember cuz of this.

I’m having a real struggle with a classic right now. I’m 50 pages into Witch World by Andre Norton. It’s very slooowwwwwwwwwwww… This copy of the book has itty bitty type and my eyes conk out real quick. Someone tell me if it’s worth continuing.

My vote (and I realize this opinion isn’t shared by many) is “The Hobbit” by J.R.R. Tolkien. I’ve tried to read it three times now, in various stages of my life, and I can’t get past what seems to be a very awkward, immature writing style.
Scarred, I can’t help you with Witch World, but I agreee with you about her writing style. I get to the end of her books, and I’m still waiting for the action to start and the story to get interesting.

On second thought, I realize that my vote was actually for an overrated book, not a wretched one. I can’t say if it’s wretched or not, because I couldn’t read it. Please feel free to ignore my previous post; I’ll try to pay more attention in the future. :slight_smile:

Oh dear. I’ve seen Steinberg plug his book at the end of his various columns (he writes a regular Macintosh newspaper column for a San Diego newspaper). I’ve checked out “Rockroids” a few times, and dismissed it as a little narcissistic project for his son, but I hadn’t imagined that he’d carry it this far…


And I thought I was the only one who just doesn’t get what all the hoopla about Tolkien is. I regularly go back and try to read the things - both “Hobbit” and the LoTR series. It always seems dull and monotonous to me. All I can figure is a lot of people read them as their first fantasy series, and they were like nothing they had read before. For me, though, they just drag.

I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating – the work of Pel Torro (R.L. Fanshawe – who had scads of other aliases) is amazingly, unbelievably bad. It makes L. Ron look readable by comparison – and I HATE L. Ron Hubbard’s writing. Torro’s “Galaxy 666” is the most blatant attempt to palm off a thesaurus as a book I’ve ever seen.

A friend introduced me to the joyful awfulness of a book called “The Null Frequency Impulser”. I don’t recall the author, but this is a case of jargon masquerading as sf.

“Cataclysm” by Don Pendleton. Unspeakably bad.

“Galactic Pot Healer” by Philip K. Dick. Dick was an unusual and gifted author, but for the life of me I don’t “get” this one.

Kindoms of the Wall, by Robert Silverberg.

I have to mention this book because it is one of the great let-down books of my reading life. It plays like a fantasy story (and a good one) for the first half, and keeps great fantasy elements almost all the way to the end. Unfortunately, the actual ending is horribly cliche and stupid sci-fi. Then we have to go back and try to swallow all of the preceeding fantasy as science fiction and it doesn’t even come close to washing.

Terribly, terribly disappointing.

Odd. I read it as science fiction from the beginning, and found it quite good. The ending was a bit weak, yes, but that was because some of the character arcs stopped making sense.