Up to Eric's Home Page To Index Sat Jul 20 22:15:44 EDT 1991

Raymond's Reviews #123

Last of the May 1991 catchup.

%T Alien Minds
%A Keith Laumer
%I Baen
%D May 1991
%O paperback, US$4.50
%P 326
%G 0-671-72055-4

Keith Laumer was never a writer of the first rank, but he did produce a number of minor classics of the genre at one time (his Retief and Bolo stories being perhaps the best known). This anthology was evidently intended as tribute, but it mainly highlights what a desperate wreck his career has become (see also RR#110). The two new stories in this anthology ("The Propitiation of Brullamagoo" and "Reverse English") are not merely bad, they're embarrassingly awful make-you-wince bad. The rest, including the good ones ("Hybrid", "Dinochrome", "Doorstep") are all familiar anthology fare from going on thirty years ago. No reason to bother buying this one.

%T The Host
%A Peter R. Emshwiller
%I Bantam/Spectra
%D May 1991
%O paperback, 358 pp, US$4.50
%G 0-553-28984-5

There's good news and bad news about Peter Emshwiller's novel, "The Host." The good news is that Emshwiller is unafraid to wrestle with and take bold stands on controversial moral issues (his protagonist's principles have interestingly Objectivist overtones). The bad news is that "The Host" features competent but unimaginative writing, derivative plot elements (a culture where the rich live above ground, the poor below, and the jaded rich hire poor folks to lend them their bodies for amusement), unlikely slang, and credibility-straining coincidences (e.g., a female doctor who has met the protagonist only once throws aside career and safety to help him clear his name). But the ingenuity and upbeat determination of Emshwiller's male hero to become a "mother" add appeal to an otherwise ordinary "read-once" novel. [CCO]

%T Serpent Catch
%A Dave Wolverton
%I Bantam/Spectra
%D May 1991
%O paperback, 418 pp, US$4.99
%G 0-553-28983-7

"Serpent Catch" is a coming-of-age novel. Unlike most such works, the hero is a half-Neanderthal, half human hybrid, resident on a planet seeded with various animal, plant, and human species thousands of years ago by an advanced race as a sophisticated kind of nature preserve. The hero's quest is to capture a kind of sea serpent essential to preserving the ecology of the country in which his people live; to succeed, he must come to grips with both his human and Neanderthal heritage. Both Wolverton's world-building and characters are quietly convincing, though the inclusion of a member of the advanced race that seeded the planet in the expedition smacks too loudly of the "deus ex machina" nature and the happy ending seems a bit forced. [CCO]

Up to Eric's Home Page To Index Sat Jul 20 22:15:44 EDT 1991

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