Saturday, November 14, 2009

An Award Nominee--What Were They Thinking?

First, my apologies for the long gap. My posts may be less frequent for awhile--reading less, working more.

Today's post is of the "I read it so you don't have to" genre. Spent my precious spare time reading a Hugo Award nominee from 1961, Rick Raphael's Code Three. You really do have to wonder what the nominators were thinking on this one.

The premise of the story is an extension of the car culture of the 50's. There are superhighways miles wide crisscrossing America, with passenger cars that can travel as fast as 600 mph on them. We follow a highway patrol crew of this future as they go out on 30-day tours in what amounts to a souped up RV, chasing random robber/killers and speeders.

None of it makes any sense. There's no particular reason for patrols to work that way. At 500+ miles an hour you can go from Alaska to the southern tip of Mexico in 12 hours. All jurisdictions become local.

And it makes no sense to drive at 500 mph on a road. It should have been apparent even in 1961 that cars of the future needed to fly. Even though we are still waiting for our flying cars.

But even bad stories paint a cultural picture--they represent ordinary thinking much better than the groundbreaking stories. And the culture here is the worst of the 50's, with casually sexist characters and some racial stuff in the mix. Any remotely interesting themes in the story aren't developed.

I've had one or two experiences like this. Catherine Asaro's The Spacetime Pool comes to mind. Just because it's nominated for an award doesn't mean it's a great, or even good, work.

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