Up to Eric's Home Page To Index Wed Apr 25 07:58:49 EDT 1990

Raymond's Reviews #47

%T Mighty Good Road
%A Melissa Scott
%I Baen Books
%D May 1990
%O paperback, US$3.95
%P 306
%G 0-671-69873-7

Gwynne Heikki is a salvager, partner in a free-lance company that takes on rescue-and-reclamation jobs for the interstellar megacorps. Professional pride overrides her caution to make her take a contract with the Lo-Moth corporation that looks good to be true -- and it is. On the face of it the job should be simple; find a cargo zeppelin crashed in the jungle country of the backwater planet Iadara, discover why it went down, and retrieve whatever possible from the wreck. Despite Iadara's freak storms, the man-killing heat and the carnivorous native hominids, the job should be doable. But someone doesn't want her to succeed -- and is willing to kill to stop her. The wreck, it seems, holds a secret that could shatter the human galaxy...

In the "Silence Leigh" trilogy (Five Twelfths of Heaven, Silence In Solitude, and Empress Of Earth), The Game Of Empire, and The Kindly Ones, Melissa Scott demonstrated a skilled hand at creating exotic societies with amazing depth and texture, layering on sociological detail with the exquisite precision of a hard-SF writer constructing a scientific McGuffin. All these books were also crackling good adventure-and-intrigue reads.

In Mighty Good Road, the world-building skill is still there but, sadly, a lot of the narrative drive of the earlier novels is absent. Scott's characters seem to spend entirely too much time in some sort of transit vehicle or other; the plot drags, and neither the physical nor the psychological action ultimately seems to mean all that much even to the main characters.

Since Melissa Scott is such a damned fine scenarist, it's some fun just to watch the wheels turn -- but, well, the way the action is resolved (by a character introduced very late who just sort of waltzes in and blows away all the remaining obstructions) makes one suspect that she got as tired as the plot and just sort of tied it off.

This is not quite Golden Turkey material -- there are too many neat and original touches in the scenery (the depiction of the commercial society built up around the wormhole "railroads" is nifty). But this Melissa Scott fan hopes she can do better next time.

Up to Eric's Home Page To Index Wed Apr 25 07:58:49 EDT 1990

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