Monday, April 18, 2011

Frontera, by Lewis Shiner

SF in the 80's was looking for the next big thing.  Space had petered out--the shuttle simply did not inspire--and nothing was taking its place.  So SF writers kept on writing about space as if it would somehow prove out.  Frontera is fully an artifact of that time, making mostly straight-line assumptions about where the future would go.  Japan and corporatism would in due course collapse and take over the world.  But we'd somehow reach out into space and give a try at colonizing other planets, with crusty, worn-out spaceships.  1984 was also the year William Gibson's Neuromancer was published (Shiner credits him with help on this work).  Cyberpunk would make us forget all this space stuff for quite awhile.

The book is kind of rough, style-wise, but it's his first one and was nominated for a Nebula.  The protagonists are all deeply flawed in some way, and the flaws interplay to create the plot.  It builds action and suspense well, so it carries you along as you read, but it's hard to care about any of the players.  In the end the main protagonist, the son of one of the wealthy corporatists, comes up with some nobility.  If you really like Lewis Shiner and you haven't read it, it is probably worthwhile to see how he started out.  Otherwise, one does not learn quite enough.  2 stars.

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