Sunday, December 18, 2005
Book Report: A Specter Is Haunting Texas by Fritz Leiber (1968)
I bought this book as part of the much-vaunted by-and-sell-on-eBay thing I had going on in the early part of the century. I didn't sell it, and I didn't mark it a quarter in my own family yard sale; instead, I've read it. As you know, I'm on a neo-classic science fiction kick these last couple of weeks (see also my report on Man Plus by Frederik Pohl).

The book has the double-effect thing I enjoy so much. As a piece written in the late 1960s, it captures something of its time and the state of the science fiction of the era; however, its setting is hundreds of years hence. After colonizing the near solar system, the world fell into atomic warfare with which the colonists wanted nothing to do; as a result they evolved for life in free-fall. Meanwhile, the east and west coasts of America endure massive nuclear strikes which leave the fascist Texans safe to emerge as the rules who conquer the Americas and continue the struggle against the Chinese and the Russkies.

Oddly enough, although someone from the twenty-first century could look upon this and see blatant politicization-as a blogger, it's my sacred duty--this book doesn't contain any; the setting is simply the setting. Also, the author doesn't have much to laud about the others in the book, whether the oppressed workers nor the Russian socialists. Instead, it's all part of the setting, and it is what it is.

A thespian from the Sack--a free-fall colony near the moon--comes to Texas (as the whole Western hemisphere, give or take a couple hippie republics, is called) to stake a claim on an old family mine. As he's unused to gravity, he wears an exoskeleton to function, and finds himself playing the role of the foretold leader of the revolution--or at least the figurehead as he plays the leader to earn his passage to his mining claim.

The voice fits the thespian from off the planet well, and the book is rather enjoyable. If you're not too caught up on the latest science fiction, and if you can find a copy, it's worth checking out.

I agree. Trite, superficial, generally without dramatic effect. Unfortunate.
Will Howard

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