Monday, June 13, 2016

Rattlesnakes and Men, by Michael Bishop

Asimov's eventually posted Rattlesnakes and Men for free for award reviewers, so I've picked it up for the Nebula nomination.  Even though it didn't win (Sarah Pinsker's Our Lady of the Open Road took the honor) it's a pretty good one.  But beware, highly political!

Our protagonist is part of a lower-middle-class family, working hard to get by.  She and her husband take an opportunity to move to a new town and work for a friend of the family.  But they find that the county they have moved to is drenched in "rattlesnake culture"--rattlesnakes, genetically engineered to be (less) dangerous to their owners--are the obsession of the men of the county, and it's a conservative area so they run the show.

The rattlesnake bit is a transparent parody of "gun culture".  The obsession with rattlesnake ownership extends to requiring everyone to own one (a reality with guns in a few small towns) and falsifying death certificates to cover up rattlesnake deaths (less clear that that is happening in real life).  If the Sad Puppies were infesting the Nebulas it would definitely be held up as an example of PC obsession, but this would be a somewhat harder sell because the story is actually pretty well written, by a master craftsman.

Overall I like it enough to give it four stars but I don't disagree with the award choice.  Read it to reinforce or stretch your echo chamber, as appropriate.

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