A time tunnel in orbit sends shockwaves which threatens to destroy the Earth. After three ships are sent in but don’t report back, Lieutenant Commander Michael Taylor of the United Survey Service is sent in to investigate. He is hurled 1,000,000,000 years ahead in time to find mankind has evolved into an entirely different form of life which has no conception of love. One of the aliens takes the form of Pam, the love of his life he left behind, and Taylor has to teach her the value of humanity before she decides to destroy it.
Warnings: dubcon, cuckolding, sexism and misogyny, racism, violence, piss/scat content
Journey to the Year One Billion has achieved an infamous, almost meme-like status of dubious “popularity” in online circles. You may be familiar with the screencap circulating social media of a passage in which the author describes a woman’s breasts as being “eggplant shaped”. It is no surprise then that I immediately picked the book up, because I love reading ridiculous adult fiction, the more out there the better. It only made it better that Martin is also gaining infamy for his open letter in his Amazon Author’s Bio, where he accuses every other science fiction author of being unoriginal hacks. I had to see what the fuss was about. However, I hastened to purchase this novel a little quickly, before realizing that he wasn’t just a self-obsessed author of silly books about eggplant tits, and after reading the review “An Open Letter to Gary LM Martin, the Very Worst Author” by Dan Ruffolo, which reviews Phantom: The Ghost Within, I took Ruffolo’s advice and donated to charity organization TGI Justice. This doesn’t completely remedy the fact that I unfortunately gave Martin money, but it’s done now, so let’s talk about the damn thing. I would like to warn that this book contains a lot of sexism and racism, and as such this review will discuss this content.
I’m going to end up being a bit more generous in this review than some others, because I actually don’t think that the book is written too poorly. Right off the bat, this reads like a Star Trek: TOS fanfic. Taylor is just Captain Kirk with another name (and yes, I read him entirely in the voice and cadence of William Shatner, so that probably helped the experience), the Survey Service is just the Federation, and indeed entire arcs within the story are lifted right out of TOS episodes. Now, I happen to very much enjoy Star Trek: TOS, and the style of the writing made it very easy to picture this as an old science fiction television series from the 60s. It’s not badly written per se, despite being a ripoff it could be a fun ripoff. The trouble is that the author keeps undercutting his own writing by dropping in the most laughably offensive nonsense he can think of, which if his open letters are anything to go off of are clearly thrown in there specifically to be offensive. Several POC characters have ridiculous made up names (like the Nigerian character who’s name is in reference to a racist moniker for Obama and and is incidentally characterized as overly aggressive and violent, fucks one of the girls Taylor likes in front of him, and then is killed shortly after), there’s a plot at the end about a crazy African dictator who just can’t let the whole slavery thing go already, and of course he can’t even mention a female character in passing without keeping us apprised of what her breasts are doing. It is less that his writing is bad, and more that the way he sees the world is bad. Aside from trying too hard by dropping in what he clearly knows are offensive stereotypes, he also has a tendency to repeat the same scenes over and over, sometimes almost verbatim, so that much of the book absolutely drags because he re-treads the same ground so much.
Martin, from his open letters and author’s notes, seems to take great pride in the emotional development of his characters. It’s true that there is a good amount of emotional exploration… to the main character Taylor, not to anyone else in the entire book, especially not the women. The women are all defined by how they interact with our good Captain Taylor, and how they relate to him sexually. Two of them are cruel and capricious, unfairly flirting with him and leading him on only to reject him. One of them is a conniving seductress who attempts to trick him into a committed relationship against his will via sex. One of them is sexually repressed because she has small breasts, and she wears her hair in a bun which showcases her sexlessness. After an affair with Taylor where he helps bring her out of her shell sexually, she goes on to finally accept the creepy stalker side character when she realizes that his always staring at her breasts was just his way of expressing how much he loved her. And finally we have a “born sexy yesterday” character in the alien being from the year one billion who takes on the physical likeness of his ex-girlfriend. These women are, start to finish, defined only by their sexual availability, or lack thereof, to the main character, and how having sex with them or not having sex with them effects him emotionally. The story certainly explores Taylor’s emotions about these things a lot, but it fails to convey any of these women as people with their own agency. He is bitter and hurt when women he wants to have sex with won’t let him, and he is guilty and conflicted when women who he does not want to have sex with want to have sex with him.
For all that Martin denigrates other authors for copying each other, Martin himself is in fact a very good mimic. He wove together a lot of other author’s ideas into what ended up being a truly fascinating, interesting and engaging speculative world, and I liked each look at the further evolution of humanity as the crew travels farther in time. We have pictures of humanity as humanity evolves to be more and more complex, first abandoning emotion as they become self aware down to the molecular level, and eventually ascending to become creators of solar systems and galaxies. This is, of course, absolutely no credit to Martin himself, who blatantly brags at the end of his book about all of the sources he copied his ideas from, from a variety of old science fiction movies and television to the classic authors of sci-fi like Asimov. It would seem that if you take a bunch of pieces from other, better stories and authors and weave them together you can end up with something that is pretty engaging, but it’s hardly as impressive as Martin seems to think. The ‘gaps’ he filled, as he put it, are all filled with a lot of his own political ideology, which is frankly all garbage. The philosophical rants range from the idea that women are cruel to withhold sex from men, or that the only racism that really exists anymore is racism against white people. None of it is particularly subtle either, for all that Martin rails against books that are too “preachy.” He also has a tendency to forget details of his worldbuilding, or just not think them through enough, as it was hard to buy an advanced, ultra-evolved race of ascended alien beings that don’t know how biology works but for some reason still have very binary gender roles, and he kept flip flopping on whether he was working with “butterfly effect” time travel, or “it was always pre-determined” time travel.
I actually did not hate the sex scenes in this book, regardless of the fact that they were boring and unexciting to me personally. Martin has a fixation on describing women’s breasts like fruit or vegetables, comparing each woman’s breasts to pears or melons or eggplants on a regular basis. This isn’t especially attractive or alluring to myself; I don’t actually favour a lot of physical descriptions in my smut, because I would much rather read about the sensations a character is feeling rather than what their tits are doing as they bounce or how furry their bush is, but each to their own, I suppose. The sex is pretty basic vanilla fare, there’s no foreplay involved ever, men don’t do anything except get on top of a lady and thrust away, but again, I can’t fault Martin for what he likes, even if what he likes leads me to suspect he has no idea how to please a woman sexually. The scenarios are pretty interesting though, as most of the sex is dubcon “aliens made us do it” fuck-or-die stuff, which with a more emotionally evocative author might totally be my speed but, as Martin himself says, exposition is everything. Be warned that there are a few scat scenes which took me quite by surprise, and though there is a lesbian scene, I did not include F/F in the tags because it’s a forced girl on girl scene where the lead girl has to… think of men in order to get through it. The end of the book also has a whole moral lesson plot line about the moral superiority of monogamy over polyamory, which is amusing given Martin’s very apparent cuckolding kink.
This book was, astoundingly, simultaneously better and worse than I expected it to be. I went in expecting really ridiculous “so bad it’s good” bad writing, which I often find very entertaining. Instead I got actually surprisingly not bad writing, and incredibly lazy offensive bullshit. Martin could be a good writer if he tried a little harder and if he managed to self reflect even a little about why he feels so very threatened by Islam, or why he thinks of women solely as walking sets of pears put on this earth to tempt and frustrate men. What Martin finds sexy, I don’t really, but the bigger issue is his complete lack of self awareness, and it is hardly surprising that everything that is good about this book came from other, better sources.
Have you read Journey to the Year One Billion? Let me know what YOU thought by leaving me a comment!