Posted on | July 16, 2014 | 23 Comments
— by Wombat-socho
I didn’t get much reading done last week, what with a lack of money for new books, a lack of time to stop by the library, and a lack of spare time to actually read what I did pick up last week thanks to the truck breaking down for a day – which, thanks to Northern Virginia’s idiosyncratic transit network, meant a day and a half wasted on bus and Metro riding that I could have spent reading.
Anyway, I finally got around to Variable Star, which is billed as a collaboration between Robert Heinlein and Spider Robinson. For those of you unfamiliar with the backstory on this, apparently RAH had written the outline in 1955, but never done anything else with it. When it was found (less its last page) after Virginia Heinlein’s death, Robinson was asked to finish it in his own style, which he did, and the result is something that’s neither fish nor fowl. As Nicholas Whyte said in Strange Horizons, “This is, frankly, not a great book.” I have to agree with him; with its many references to events and characters from Heinlein’s other works, and shameless Tuckerizations, it’s amusing for people who like that sort of thing, but the opening chapters are painful to read and the deus ex machina that saves the day is downright infuriating. Also, contra Whyte, the book seems as obsessed with sex and sexual relations as any of Heinlein’s later, lesser works, which is an annoying distraction since it all seems rather forced and gratuitous, a signal by Robinson that he, too, is hep, cool and with it. It’s not nearly as bad as For Us, The Living, but that’s damning with faint praise. If you really like Spider Robinson and view him as the obvious heir to Heinlein’s legacy (I don’t) then you’ll probably enjoy the book; if not, then you might want to read it once and move on.
And then we have Iver Cooper’s 1636: Seas of Fortune, which is a different kettle of tropical fish altogether. In the old days, Seas of Fortune would probably have been called a fix-up, since it began as a series of short stories, but here forms a pair of short novels dealing with a USE colony in the Guianas (and a refugee marrano from Brazil who plays an important role) and the Japanese colonization of America’s Pacific Coast with exiled Christians under the rule of daimyo Date Masumune, who was not himself Christian. Both stories are entertaining, but whether they’re worth almost nine bucks is another question, especially since the paperback is less expensive. What’s up with that, Baen?
Finally, a couple of short stories. First, Sarah Hoyt’s The Price of Gold, which is an amusing little romantic fantasy that dances along the edge of horror without falling in. The plot concerns a secret high school for magicians, the misfit boy who apparently can’t do magic at all despite his parents both being wizards, and the precocious girl whose magical skills are exactly the opposite – she’s so good, not even her teachers know what her limits might be. When the misfit boy disappears, and nobody else seems to care, our heroine sets off to solve the case – and finds the boy may have a talent their teachers aren’t equipped to appreciate.
Much less sweet (and considerably more frustrating) is Marko Kloos’ Measures of Absolution, a story set in his Frontlines universe that returns us to the hostile slums of Detroit which we previously saw in his debut novel Terms of Enlistment. This time the story is from the POV of Andrew Grayson’s squadmate Corporal Jackson, who finds out why her squad almost got wiped out – but the question is whether she’ll survive to let anyone higher in the chain of command know. I’d have been a lot happier with “Measures of Absolution” if it hadn’t ended abruptly at AN EXTREMELY DRAMATIC POINT, but as it is, it’s a good read but immensely frustrating. Maybe we’ll get to see the rest of the story after Marko finishes
AngelsAngles of Attack. Maybe we won’t. In the meantime, if you don’t mind being left hanging, it’s a good story.
Finally, on a completely unrelated topic, it’s been a while since we all got together for drinks, snacks, and goodnatured hijinkery, and frankly, I don’t care to wait for CPAC. How many of you would be interested in getting together someplace in DC or Northern Virginia for beverages (adult & otherwise), nibblements and conversation? We can either follow the example of the recent Northern Virginia Moron Meetup, which reserved a private room and pre-ordered trays of appetizers after people chipped in money, or we can just pick a bar, restaurant, or lounge someplace and agree to meet there at a certain day & time. This would probably, tentatively happen in mid-October or later. Let me know what you think in the comments.