Up to Eric's Home Page To Index Wed Apr 25 07:03:35 EDT 1990

Raymond's Reviews #40

%T Scor-Sting
%A Frank A. Javor
%I DAW Books
%D Apr 1990
%O paperback, US$3.95
%P 223
%G 0-88677-421-7

There's a subgenre of hard-boiled detective fiction that relies on the following plot: an innocent person stumbles into an intrigue between several lethal factions and gets kidnapped and beat up and maltreated by the local cops and mystified a lot, but bulls through to a resolution by sheer guts and survival ability. There are a lot of corpses (often including old buddies of the viewpoint character's) and usually at least one Woman of Mystery in the mix, and the narrative mode is first person gritty.

Scor-Sting, if you haven't guessed as much already, wraps this ersatz-Chandler formula in SF chrome. Some of the detail twists have an ironic charm -- for one thing, Eli Pike (the hard-boiled ex-Navy protagonist) isn't a gumshoe but a photographer, and for another the local police chief is an android -- but basically it's the Same Old Stuff.

Pike's femme fatale is Caia, who hires him to do location shots for a documentary on a godforsaken rockball called Scorpio. They're barely into their recording when armed thugs looking for his cameras chase him into the desert. An impossible native rescues him -- impossible because according to Pike's orientation tape no human births have ever been hazarded in the planet's heavy gravity and man-killing heat. And the native leads him to the corpse of...but that would be telling. The utter derivativeness of the plot gives this book enough troubles to overcome without me publishing spoilers.

Truly, it's not impossible to enjoy this book. The writing isn't bad If You Like That Sort Of Thing, and it reads like Javor had some fun writing it. Maybe that's why I don't feel the same impulse to throw it against the wall that Illegal Alien (RR#33) induced, even though it depends on a closely related set of cliches.

So, if you're in the mood for some amiable book-noirish trash and you can pick this up cheap, here's my advice. Select yourself a nice hot day, lay back on a deck chair with a glass of something cool and bubbly, turn your brain off, and give Scor-Sting a read. I give it an official Raymond's Reviews Trenchcoat-and-Laser award for Conspicuous Chandlerism and Good Clean Low-Down Fun. It won't do anything for your evolution, but at least the bucks will end up in an SF publisher's kitty instead of encouraging mainstream trash.

Up to Eric's Home Page To Index Wed Apr 25 07:03:35 EDT 1990

Eric S. Raymond <esr@snark.thyrsus.com>