Geoff Ryman, 1994
This is a collection of four novellas. A Fall of Angels is
about the discovery of a lifeform inside a star. Fan is about
a woman with an AI version of her favorite pop star. O Happy Day!
is about a world where women are subjecting all heterosexual men to a
holocaust, and gay men have to clean up the bodies. The Unconquered
Country I gave up on before finding out what it was about.
And that last bit should tell you how I felt about the whole book. I
checked this out of the library because I loved Ryman's novel
Was, but it turns out that, despite the
copyright date on the book, this is all juvenalia. Ryman writes at the
end of Was that "I am a fantasy writer who fell in love with
realism"; these stories were written before he did so, and since realism
is what I like him for, I disliked them:
- The first one alternated between technobabble ("the platform was
oriented around a core chaoli eruption") and an alien who says things
like "Ticklethoughts! Leapsniff! Snuffletaste! Play!" Makes you want to
go pick up a nerd and throw him at a hippie.
- The second one was a too-earnest take on Max Headroom. Considering
that Max Headroom was already a too-earnest take on Max Headroom,
this isn't a good thing.
- The third one's premise is offensively stupid.
- The fourth one I dropped when I got to this part: "'House,' she
called as she ran. 'Old house. Kneel down! Kneel down!' She jogged
backward beside it, jumping up and down, trying to reach Third. The
house was too panicked to notice, and Third was clogged with terror."
What does that even mean? This was actually a recurring theme in
the class I took in college on "the fantastic in literature": fantasy
as embodied by strings of words that don't immediately translate into
anything. But I can't stand that sort of thing; it's the verbal
equivalent of the stereotypical avant garde movie full of montages
of images that add up to gibberish. In fact, I guess I'll add that:
Pattern 1 indicates that the prose in a written work need not be
transparent. Heck, clever phrasings are a big plus. But the
meaning of each sentence should be transparent. No
colorless green ideas sleeping furiously. If the world of the
story is sufficiently surreal that some strings of words might
need a bit of setup, do the setup first.
Return to the Calendar page!