Saturday, July 10, 2010

Status Quo, by Mack Reynolds

Status Quo is a Hugo award nominated story for 1962, available on Project Gutenberg. Lots of great material there. This story is something of a sleeper. I had not heard of the author. The theme of the tale is keeping up with the Joneses, with a vengeance. The protagonist is Lawrence Woolford, a CIA man trying to rise in the organization by doing all the right things--drinking the right drink, reading the right books, driving the right car. Fads gone wild. If you don't try to keep up, you are "weird", next best thing to a Commie. So far, a pretty heavy-handed tale on the dangers of judging by superficial titles.

The story turns self-referential--there is a Movement afoot to fight such faddism, marked by extreme technical competence and political naivete. Our protagonist fights, and fights being seduced by, this group.

And so it goes, rolling along pretty well. But a good 2 star becomes a 3 star in the last 2 paragraphs. The ending is truly worthy.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The Love We Share Without Knowing, by Christopher Barzak

I recently finished The Love We Share Without Knowing, a 2009 Nebula award nominee. I wish I had better things to say about it.

The "novel" is a series of very loosely connected vignettes about expatriate Americans teaching english in Japan. The Japan of this novel is a brooding, elegiac place, where the weight of collectivism and general decline literally squeezes the life out of people. You are told right at the start that there is no happy ending or redeeming value, which leads one to believe that tragedy is immanent. Not really. Just lots of sadness.

The author is a decent writer, so the tales are crafted well. But they have a very dated flavor--from the main subject (Japan) through the subtext (9-11) and even the slang, the book seems like it sat for a long time on the author's computer before finally emerging.

Overall, slightly stale croutons--decent flavor but dated, and not at all filling. 2 stars, just.