Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The WandererThe Wanderer by Fritz Leiber
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

1965 Winner of the Hugo Award.

Years before furry was popular, there was The Wanderer. Years before Lucifer's Hammer, there was The Wanderer. Years before it was popular go epic numbers of scientists and normals oohing and awing over BDO's entering the Earth's orbit... oh wait, no that's pretty much a standard of SF.

Seriously, aside from the times, which may or may not let you guys forgive the casual references to casual racism, sexism, and the oddly frank depiction of a lesbian woman deciding right before she drowns that she wants to have sex with the misogynic man as they both drown and wanting to strangle him to death before the water does the job, the novel really is a quick and fun dance around the tidal effects of the earth getting a new moon by way of HYPERSPACE.

It really was pretty neat, but let's put it in context. Stranger in a Strange land came out three years before, so free love is getting into the swing of things, and this novel is sandwiched between Way Station and Dune/This Immortal. It really isn't much of a surprise, being right dab in the middle of the sixties, that we've got almost beach scenes, Science Science Science, awkward characters named KKK, and kitty-aliens. MEOW.

And don't forget Counter Culture! Those darn Wanderers. Are they Beatniks? Are they the Youth Scene? Are they running from Mommy or Daddy? Why YES! Their tie-die bus has enough living area to hold 14 thousand earth surfaces, too, and it's full of wild types. Quick! Here come the coppers! And here's the oddest thing I've read in any novel for quite some time: "Have you ever masturbated a lower life form?"

I joke! I joke! (Or do I?)

There's actually a lot of death and pathos. It's also pretty fun for all its faults. It's easier to read in a few ways than Lucifer's Hammer and has easier to consume characters, but both works have very different messages. The level of destruction is much less than in Niven and Pournelle's work that came out 13 years later, but I have to wonder if each is merely a product of its age. Still, it's hard not to see the direct line of influence.

MEOW! Dirty monkey.

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