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SFRevu February 1998 Vol. 2.2: Review

SFRevu February 1998 Vol. 2.2
Copyright 1998 by Ernest Lilley 
This is the text only Email edition - to see what this issue was supposed to
look like: visit http://members.aol.com/sfrevu

Now in Paperback!  How Like a God by Brenda W. Clough  The Ship Errant by Jody
Lynn Nye
How Like a God by Brenda W. Clough

ISBN: 0812571363 / Tor Feb '98 / Paperback, 288 pgs - review by Ernest Lilley
Rob Lewis is just like you and me. With one little exception. He can change
your mind. No, I mean really change your mind.

Computer Programmer Rob Lewis starts out at the beginning of HOW LIKE A GOD in
his daily morning routine. Get the kids to school, his wife off to her job,
himself to work. Barring the unforeseen it will be another day in suburbia,
and Rob is content things the way they are. Which is a pity because the
unforeseen is about to hit him like a tsunami. 

Rob is easy to like and relate to, a dedicated father and husband, a vaguely
Dilbertesque programmer who fondly recalls the comics he read when he was
younger. He seems like someone you can trust. Unfortunately he's only human.
While trying to get everyone where they are going, Rob discovers that he has
suddenly acquired the ability to read and alter minds. He has no idea how it
happened, and it takes a while for him to accept, but soon he's off to save
the world with his new power.

What Rob doesn't count on is the difference between power and control. First,
someone dies because Rob had covered leaving work by imprinting the suggestion
that he was around...somewhere. When he realizes that he is rewriting his
kid's minds involuntarily and that his wife is suddenly consumed by ambition
to use his powers for their gain he does the only thing he can think of - run
away. Destitute and homeless in New York City , Rob shies away from human
contact while he grapples with the darkness within himself and his
uncontrolled power. 

A chance encounter with a neuro-scientist and the self disgust generated from
nearly raping a young girl leads Rob to seek help learning to control his
power before the inevitable confrontation between human and divine spirit. Rob
sinks low enough in this phase to make the author's point, but I'm sure I
could have sunk considerably lower before accepting responsibility for my
actions. It doesn't hurt the story much, if at all, but I think that the
author pulled her punch a bit here.

>From Washington D.C. to New York to Siberia, HOW LIKE A GOD takes us on a
journey of self discovery reminiscent of LeGuin's LATHE OF HEAVEN, in which
George Orr dreams Effective Dreams that change the face of the world. This
book is considerably more thoughtfully than the reality hopping of MAINLINE by
Deborah Christian (NOW IN PAPERBACK Aug '97 SFRevu 1.2). HOW LIKE A GOD is a
thought provoking story about what it means not just to be a god, but to be
human as well.

It's clear that author Brenda Clough has mastered her powers of persuasion. I
recommend this for readers of Fantasy and SF readers alike, as well as
mainstream readers that wouldn't touch Fantasy or SF on a dare. Now if I could
only reach out and adjust your minds ...
 The Ship Errant by Jody Lynn Nye
ISBN: 0-671-87854-9 / Baen 1996 / review by EJ McClure

THE SHIP ERRANT is Jody Lynn Nye's first solo voyage into the enduring series
that began with Anne McCaffrey's popular THE SHIP WHO SANG. The lively cast of
frogs, griffins, pirates, a spacefaring knight and his damsel rollick along
through three solar systems, dabbling in diplomacy, fist-fights and starship
battles with equal felicity.

We are first introduced to Carialle, the brainship, and Keff, her brawn, in a
scathing series of official memos. The Powers that Be have it in for the
unorthodox team from the very beginning. Despite reservations about their
mental stability, or suitability for delicate diplomatic endeavors, the two
end up assigned to the mission of escorting a delegation of colonial "globe-
frogs" back to the long-lost homeworld. The slapdash couple quickly make
friends with the telekinetic froglike aliens, and introduce them to a
futuristic version of Dungeons and Dragons, in which Keff takes on the role of
the Good Knight, and Carialle his Lady Fair. En route they pass through an
area of space where Carialle was once marooned and nearly killed by a
mysterious salvage crew. Her flashbacks to that long-ago trauma seem to
support the Inspector General's concerns about Carialle's sanity, but she
insists she is being framed. Before Keff can clear his partner's name, or get
the Cridi (as the frogs call themselves; humans haven't gotten over the
politically incorrect habit of nicknaming foreigners) to sign a treaty with
the Central Worlds' government, they are ordered off the mission by the
scheming Inspector General.
The brainship team sent to replace them is ambushed by pirates. This bit of
wicked mischief goads the impulsive Keff into jumpstarting the Cridi's stalled
space program, and with these enthusiastic green neophytes for allies he and
Carialle jet off in hot pursuit of the renegades. But the archaic patchwork
ships Carialle handily defeats certainly are no match for her this time
around! The winged catlike creatures, promptly dubbed "griffins" by the Good
Knight, don't seem to have the technological sophistication to have built the
ships they are flying. So who are the real villains? The mystery turns on a
comedy of mistaken identities, sweetened with a touch of romance between Keff
and one of the more good-hearted pirates. 
The kaleidoscope of settings are quickly sketched so as not to slow down the
pace of the action. Anne McCaffrey has tutored Nye well in the construction of
entertaining and intriguing alien societies, and in the art of writing
dialogue that serves both to amuse and to advance the storyline. There is a
good deal of slapstick comedy, and a climactic battle scene that leaves
missiles ricocheting about the landscape of the griffins' home planet.

Technically, this is one of the most painful Pseudo-Science Fiction books I've
ever plowed through. "She knew he wouldn't want to let a single erg of
information get away." Isn't an erg a measurement of energy? And a "byte" a
measure of information? There are entire paragraphs of pseudoscience babble
that would boggle a Star Trek Chief Engineer, no mean feat in itself. For
instance; "She had no wish to allow an alien bug to run rampant through her
memory banks. Surely the protections in her chips were sophisticated enough to
circumvent any intrusions. Just in case, she added a further layer of noise-
suppression between her own memory functions and the empty bay she had
prepared...bad bytes bounced away, disintegrating into sparkle. Now and again
she saw a spray of them like a meteor shower when the crystal structure of the
disk-matrix was violated. 'They've been experimenting with that keyboard, but
they didn't know how to purge bad files or compress over bad sectors,' she

Aaaargggggh! Is Science Fiction supposed to make science illiterates out of
its readers?

Well, let's put the best face I can on this .... farce, or folly. I'm not sure
which is the better description. But for some reason, the series is wildly
popular and the book ends happily ever after--as every good tale of knight
errantry should.

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mailto:Brenda Clough Last modified 12 February 1998