Wednesday, March 01, 2006

I Want to Live Under the Flourescent Sun!

A Different Light
Elizabeth A. Lynn
Berkley, 1981

Rating: -2.3 (Scale -12:12)

A Different Light is--as near as I can tell--one of the last of a type of book that was very common in the birth of science fiction. That type of book is the 200-page serial novel, where the book is written to be published in 3 sections in (well, most likely) Analog, and no filler material is put in after the magazine publication. It's... not the best way to write a novel. The jumps between each section tend to be non-linear (in the bad, pomo way; not the good post-modern way) and the successive climaxes tend to pound up on one another like a train wreck; each successive climax just does that much more damage.

So Jimson (hereafter referred to as Weed, because I can) is an artist with cancer. Poor Weed. Weed will live for like 20 years if he stays on his homeworld. But poor Weed is bored. Weed wants to see things under "a different light" [clever, eh?] and go into hyperspace or whatever and visit other worlds. But if he does, his cancer will mutate, and he'll only live one year. So: Weed travels. Also, he's trying to find his old boyfriend.

Weed seeing things in a different light mostly consists of his hanging out in bars - a true artist - which hardly seems worth extra cancer to this poor reviewer. I mean, were the bars on his homeworld that bad? One presumes not.

So Weed sells some paintings, and that's the first climax. Then the book abruptly changes gears and Weed becomes an art thief. Except, it's not art that he tries to steal, it's masks that enhance telepathy! Good grief, really Ms. Lynn? You're kidding me. He finds the boyfriend and they become enmeshed in shadowy dealings or somesuch. It's lame.

Meanwhile, there's a pile of off-camera sex. All "deviant." Hot man-on-man love. (off camera.) Hot human-on-alien love. (off camera.) Hot man-on-woman love. (off camera.) If you like deviant sex alluded to, and lame art thievery, and crapulent motivations and cultures, then this book is for you.

Then, the third section? What happens? Weed dies. Yay! Boo. But before he dies, he's telepathically uploaded into 12 other people's bodies, and lives on in one even though his personality should have been destroyed. Then there's more deviant sex.

What? Did I just spoil the book for you? Be thankful! Now you don't have to read it! Lynn is apparently a well-respected writer, but this book has all the hallmarks of a first novel that no-one actually read. It's lame. Though I wish I could show you the 70s-tastic cover of the version I read; the actual pic isn't up online. The mustaches are tremendous.


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