wombat_socho (wombat_socho) wrote,

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Disappointments and excitements

I can't seem to find it in the intertubes, but I seem to recall that science fiction was once defined by one of its writers as a literature of hope, since it was usually about the future, and the base assumption was that there was going to BE a future, and that (usually) it was going to be better than the present.

This is certainly the case with John Ringo's Live Free or Die, which is an alien invasion tale of a decidedly Campbellian tone: humanity uber alles, in spite of orbital bombardments, biological warfare, and alien "allies" who are only in it for the money, at least at first. The novel is admittedly a Schlock Mercenary fanfic prequel, cheerfully sanctioned by Howard Tayler, and like Tayler's webcomic, occasionally exhibits flashes of Doc Smith and Edmond Hamilton in its DNA. It's a page-turner par excellance, and I'm looking forward to picking up the other two volumes at the library - or maybe this weekend at Balticon, if the price is right. Amazon reviewers seem to think the sequels aren't as good, but we'll see.

Now, on the other hand, take Michael Chabon's award-winning The Yiddish Policemen's Union. (Please.) This is a grim, depressing book set in an alternate universe where many of Europe's Jews have been saved from the Holocaust and settled in Alaska, Israel lost the 1948 War for Independence, and in the year 2000 the Federal District of Sitka is about to revert to state control - and the state is run by Tlingits and other goyim who are none too happy with their Jewish neighbors. The plot is nominally about a murder investigation being conducted by homicide detective Meyer Landsman, a divorced alcoholic, and his Tlingit/Jewish partner, but the already plodding narrative gets weighed down by a legion of minor characters and a ton of interesting but distracting exposition. It was an effort to read this book, a long unrewarding slog to an ending shamelessly stolen from Stephen King's Firestarter that reeks of deus ex machina after Landsman's long battle with the shadowy forces of organized crime and Federal covert operatives. It won the Hugo, but then so did some other crappy books. Not recommended, unless you're feeling masochistic and in need of some SF thoroughly marinated in noir-flavored Yiddishkeit.
Tags: books

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