What is one supposed to make of The Infinity Man? I will admit that the cover gave me pause. It’s a bad cover. All text and no images. I know we’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but make some kind of an effort, dude.
Giving it the benefit of the doubt, I dove in. It’s a good concept with a storyline that’s not half-bad. It reads like a robot Frankenstein or like a pulp version of Robert Mason’s Weapon, being written largely from the POV of the machine who calls himself Jim Burton. It includes some military action, some mafia baddies and some rather intriguing discussions on morality, sin, God, and what it means to be human. It was recommended to me by a friend. It should have been right up my alley.
Unfortunately, it fell short on a few levels that a good editor could have fixed. For example, the author has a tendency to use a frequent amount of italics in a manner that would make a normal person’s speech seem bizarre. It’s like I’m listening to several characters re-enact the Princess Bride’s rhyming game between Inigo Montoya and Fezzik. Hastings also uses quotation marks to indicate a nickname [which is OK the first time], but then continues to use those quotes every time the nickname is used. There’s also a bit of head-hopping between points of view that I found a bit distracting.
The most distracting thing about the book was how the robot thinks and speaks. Seriously, wouldn’t a robot as advanced as Hastings describes be capable of thinking beyond 1950s robot speech or high logical Vulcan? The robot character is also inconsistent. One moment its feeling anger or love with great confusion over whether he’s feeling anything at all, but not once does Jim Burton stop to question the logic of its general contempt [yes, that’s a feeling] for homo sapiens [even the ones he thinks he might love]. Rather than an emerging personality consistent with the origins Hastings gives his protagonist [and I won’t spoil it; you’ll have to suffer through the book like I did if you want to know], the Infinity Man remains as emotionally stilted as Star Trek:TNG’s Data before he installed his emotion chip. Unfortunately, none of the other characters are as fully fleshed as Hastings’ inconsistently drawn protagonist.
The action in this book is mild. Jim Burton is pretty much invulnerable and it does get boring after a while. Nothing is overly graphic. A joke is made out of use of the word “hell” on page 36, Hastings’ take on the whole logical Vulcan robots no understand human profanity trope. Unfortunately, Hastings also uses the R-word on that page; I could never recommend a book that uses a word meant to denote someone with intellectual disabilities [“retard”] as an insult. It cheapens the world and makes it a darker place for persons with intellectual disabilities, especially when it’s qualified to mean “them people they have in mental hospitals.”
To this long list of complaints, I add one last detail which plagued me from the moment I read it. Here is a description of the six-foot tall robot [who is occasionally referred to as a giant despite his uncommon dimensions]:
“But the queerest about the man was his clothing. He was wearing a dark, tight-fitting uniform that was obviously intended to emphasize his massive, sculptured physique, which resembled that of a Greek god. The gray body suit covered the man from the neck down. Form-fitting black trunks draped his middle, held in place by a wide leather belt. He wore tall, black boots that reached nearly up to his knees. But the most exotic part of the unusual outfit was a long black cape that was attached to the neckline of his uniform and hung down his broad back almost to his ankles.” [pp.20-21]
OK, so he looks like the black-and-white TV version of Superman. Why? And why would his creator give him an invulnerable uniform that looked like a superhero costume [complete with undies on the outside] but choose such a horrid color in today’s world of colorful superheroes? Call me crazy, but I kept expecting the author to provide an answer to why someone would dress a robot in a drab gray superhero costume, especially when he goes out of his way to point it out. Get ready for disappointment! Hastings never bothers to tell us why his mad scientists dressed up robot Frankenstein in black-and-white Andy Griffith super hero clothes. Your guess is as good as mine, but it makes absolutely no sense. Absurdly, no one in the novel ever asks the robot if he’s a super hero. It never even enters anyone’s mind as a possibility!
In short, I can’t recommend The Infinity Man. Hastings’ golden nugget of an idea requires the tender mercies of an editor.
From the Bookwyrm’s Lair
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the author for review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”