fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsscience fiction book reviews Planet of the Damned by Harry HarrisonPlanet of the Damned by Harry Harrison

Brion Brandd has just become the champion of his planet by defeating all the other contestants in “The Twenties.” Many men train all their lives for a chance to be the winner and Brion is ready to savor his victory. But not so fast! When a former winner challenges Brion to do something truly meaningful and heroic with his life, Brion sets off to save the planet Dis from a war that will surely destroy the entire planet. Dis has a hostile environment that nearly kills Brion before he even gets to meet the natives. Then he needs to figure out how the planet and the species that have evolved on it work together so he can solve their political problems.

Since this is a story written by Harry Harrison, there must also be a hot chick for Brion to save and fall in love with. My eyebrows rose when I found out that the girl in Planet of the Damned is Dr. Lea, an accomplished biologist. That was surprising after Harrison had just told us that men and women have to compete separately in The Twenties because “the inherent differences prevented fair contests. For example, it is impossible for a woman to win a large chess tournament and this fact was recognized.” (It’s true that all chess champions so far have been men, but men outnumber women in competitive chess 16:1. For some reason there are relatively few women who compete in chess. Perhaps it’s lack of talent with that type of competitive and aggressive visual spatial task — or just a simple lack of interest — but to say it’s a fact that it’s impossible for a woman to win is ridiculous.)

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsAnyway, some of the men in the story are outraged that they’ve been sent a female scientist because they think she’ll “melt in the rain,” and Brion decides she must be carefully watched, but the hot chick’s expertise is an important part of the plot after we get past all her shrieking, falling, fainting and being saved and carried around by Brion. Eventually, while sobbing, she decides she wants to get married and that she’s tired of being a biologist and a “mental match for any man.” (If she has a Ph.D. in exobiology, shouldn’t she be more than a mental match for most men? Whatever, Mr. Harrison.)

Planet of the Damned is very similar to Harry Harrison’s Deathworld. Manly man goes to save planet, planet has hostile environment, natives’ evolution and symbiotic relationship with planet are key to solution, and there’s a hot chick to fall in love with for no particularly good reason. It’s unbelievable, cheesy, poorly written, pulpy and worst of all, boring. It might have been better if I hadn’t felt like I’d already read this story in Deathworld. I keep giving Harry Harrison another try because I love several of his STAINLESS STEEL RAT books, but I think I might be done with Harrison now. (Three strikes and you’re out!)

Planet of the Damned was originally serialized and then published as a novel in 1962. It has also been published as Sense of Obligation. I listened to the audio version which was produced by Jimcin Recordings in 2010 and has been recently released on CD by Brilliance Audio. Jim Roberts does his usual slightly wooden but competent narration. Planet of No Return is another Harrison novel that features Brion Brandd.

Publisher: Acclaimed science-fiction writer Harry Harrison published over 40 novels, including the West of Eden trilogy, the popular Stainless Steel Rat series, Make Room! Make Room!, and the graphic novels Death World and Planet of the Damned. His novels have been translated into over 25 languages. In 1973 he was honored with the Nebula Award and was named a Grand Master by the Science Fiction Writers of America ( SFWA ) in 2009. In Planet of the Damned, Brion Brandd, the winner of “The Twenties”, a kind of planet-wide Olympics of both mind and body, barely has time to savor his victory when he is called away by a previous winner to help save Dis, a planet that seems intent on its own destruction and the destruction of it’s neighbor. When Brion and his friend Lea arrive on Dis, they are confronted by baffling questions. What planetary evolution has caused such a difference in the inhabitants? Why are one set of people deeply connected with the planet and one totally unconnected to anything but dominance and destruction? He must find the answers to these questions and find the link essential to saving both worlds while racing against a doomsday clock. It will take all their skill, courage, and empathy to do this.

Harry Harrison Brion Brandd 1. Planet of the Damned 2. Planet of No Return Harry Harrison Brion Brandd 1. Planet of the Damned 2. Planet of No Return


  • Kat Hooper

    KAT HOOPER, who started this site in June 2007, earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University (Bloomington) and now teaches and conducts brain research at the University of North Florida. When she reads fiction, she wants to encounter new ideas and lots of imagination. She wants to view the world in a different way. She wants to have her mind blown. She loves beautiful language and has no patience for dull prose, vapid romance, or cheesy dialogue. She prefers complex characterization, intriguing plots, and plenty of action. Favorite authors are Jack Vance, Robin Hobb, Kage Baker, William Gibson, Gene Wolfe, Richard Matheson, and C.S. Lewis.