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Thursday, April 21, 2016

They'd Rather Be Right They'd Rather Be Right by Mark Clifton
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Oh goodness. This 1955 Hugo winner nearly broke the Hugos. It was actually downright bad in parts, a catastrophic mess in others, and the handwavium was practically everywhere you looked, even in basic logic and common knowledge. I almost gave the novel a one star for all the clichés and the grab-bag of old SF tropes mixed together to create... a single clever idea that was subsequently beat into a fleshy pulp.

Oh my.

So why am I giving this three stars? Because I realized something fairly late into the novel that may or may not be actually there, but because I did see it, it managed to raise my enjoyment level by a crapload.

I discovered that I could read this novel as SATIRE. Is it true? Hell if I know. But between the doctorates of psychosomatic medicine, everyday Joe Psychic Supermen, UBERSUPER AIs that never have a speaking role despite being so brilliant even though they've discovered how to give 'dem normal folk immortality as well as MULTI-VARIABLE PHYSICS? OH MY GOD. That's AMAZING.

Ahem. Okay. Maybe I'm getting a tad carried away with my excitement. A little.

The characters were right out of 1930's stock scientist hero manuals, the old fat and stupid men and women who got to become supermen were a flipped sheet of paper, almost a perfect one-dimensional representation, and the way the novel flies through complicated ideas without stopping to smell the roses on any except one just made me wonder what the hell this novel was FOR.

Was it really about the admittedly cool premise behind the title? Well, we're meant to think so.

If you could have immortality, but the only way to have it is to be free of conviction, could you do it? If the knowledge of knowing you're right is the only reason you're growing old, fat, and stupid is the only reason you can't live young, happy, smart, and yes, full of fantastic psi powers, then could YOU give up your crappy worldview?

The answer, my dear satire readers, is NO. You probably couldn't. Very few people could, even if you put the UBER AMAZING AI in everyone's hands. See? The joke is on you!

This really could have been written much better. We probably didn't need more than 20% of the actual text to get this joke across nicely. I did have enough fun with it to give it pretty much a general passing grade, but seriously, so much of it was a slog. (That is, until I read it as a satire, and then it became my new The Complete Roderick).

Be forewarned! This is very much a 50's book with all that entails. I actually started groaning with the physical need for Asimov's early stilted dialogue and Heinlein's pedantic juveniles, and that's saying A LOT.


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