Oh my goodness this was awful. I read it as part of a classics of science fiction project, and I understand that it was first published in 1940, but just.. UGH!! The prose is leaden, overcomplicated, without rhythm or grace, and sometime just flat bizarre.
A sample, The thoughts erupting from his brain penetrated to her at this close range, informing her that "this dame is pulling the same coy stuff. But I'll thaw her out yet."
A mind curdling experience lay behind that calm conviction. Kathleen closed her brain a little tighter to shut out the details of the recollection that floated up from the complacent depths of the youth."
or orThe blur before his vision straightened slowly as his eyes recovered from the firey dazzlement. As his gaze reached further out from him he saw that the corridor was completely empty.
People's eyes and feet and arms are always wandering around of their own free will in this novel, people don't look around corners, their eyes creep around the sharpness of the wallending protrusion. Its just ... ow.
As for the plot, oh my!! Jommy Cross begins the book as a nine year old ubermensch in the making, and despite being orphaned, shot, hunted, kidnapped, held captive in a junkyard by a drunk, thrown off buildings and down holes, made the subject of a planet wide manhunt (on more than one planet) still rises inexorably to dominate every person and situation he encounters.
Luckily for him he is several times (at one point the book says 300X !!)more intelligent than an average human, also physically stronger, more mentally and emotionally balanced, and yes, yes of course possessed of greater will and determination. He has also been hypnotically imprinted by his dead father with all sorts of arcane knowledge as well as with instructions on where and how to find super weapons and other tools that have been hidden for him to retrieve when he reaches the correct ages.
Of course he is hated and feared by almost everyone who suspects his true potential because the dull ordinary peasants can't tolerate or forgive the true majesty of the great man blahty blahty yaddda.
As he progresses he learns about the world in which he lives which is apparently ruled entirely by a single dictator possessed of almost absolute power - opposed by a secret society of not quite as uber as Jommy ubermensch in a death match which has been going on for over a thousand years. Oh yeah, can you guess where this is heading? I'm going to spoiler it, because somebody might actually want to read this thing but maannn of course Jommy dominates first the secret society and then in a final confrontation with the dictator he is crowned heir to the world when the dictator says oh my boy I have been hoping and waiting for you to fulfill your destiny, and rewards him with the hand of his true mate who is of course the effing virginal uberdaughter of the distator because why would that not... arrrgggghhhh
Sheesh. Its a complete Mary Sue (Barry Lou?) fantasy of the unstoppable awesomeness of a boy almost everyone hates out of helpless envy of his awesomeness, except for a few select nearly as awesome people who of course adore his magnificence and (if they are female) want to marry him.
Oh oh, I almost forgot, there's a spectacularly cringeworthy scene in which a woman fifteen years his senior, one of the major leaders of the resistance, and someone who has been frequently and caressingly described throughout the book as a perfect beauty offers herself to him as a wife because of his great awesomeness and then says Of course ....marriage to several women at the same time is not unusual in slan history
. So apparently she understands that he is too awesome to be tied down to just one but wants to be the first member of his harem? Headdesk headdesk headdesk.
And most of the population of the world(s) are just pawns, washed back and forth by the tidal struggles of the few great men who rise above the dull herd to stand boldly on precipices with their hair blowing in the wind and trade noble phrases (and womenfolk) with one another.
Seriously people. Scary scary stuff here. And not well written scary stuff. Yikes.