Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Review - "The Persistence of Vision", "Hunter's Moon", and "Casandra"

Vincent DiFate
1979 Hugo Winner for Best Professional Artist

"The Persistence of Vision"
by John Varley
1979 Hugo Winner for Best Novella
1978 Nebula Winner for Best Novella

While hitchhiking and walking cross country a man comes across a unique community of blind/deaf people and is so taken by their lifestyle he lives among them for a while. They have built a community and culture based on intimacy. Their lack of senses seems to put them in touch with something else beyond what normal men can sense.

Varley creates an interesting insular culture built around taking advantage of the remaining senses. There isn't a lot of story here (the transformation of the man who encountered the community is rather choppily handled) but the community presented is fascinating. I would recommend "The Persistence of Vision" as a pretty good except I have a problem with Varley.

I have read exactly three things by Varley and all three have prominently featured adults having sex with children and these have been presented as positive relationships. In "The Persistence of Vision" it's a thirteen year old girl throwing herself at a forty-seven year old man (which also annoys me with "sexually open culture means young, hot women throw themselves at repressed older men" theme that also is so common). Once is an odd quirk of a strange culture, twice is kind of weird, and at three times I'm suspecting that I'm seeing the author's fetishes on display. I've seen a lot of fetishes dropped into books by authors and typically it ranges from annoying to creepy. Sometimes going from one to the other like Heinlein's spanking obsession. Varley's starts out creepy and just gets worse and it has put me off ever wanting to read anything by him again.

"Hunter's Moon"
by Poul Anderson
1979 Hugo Winner for Best Novelette

Anderson returns to the awards once more with this story that feels like a weaker version of his previously winning "The Sharing of Flesh". On an alien planet human anthropologists are attempting to understand why two sentient alien species are at war. One group, a flighty collective of poets and dreamers, is being preyed upon by feral stone age hunters who think that the fliers are responsible for their low birth rates. Two of the anthropologists use a weak form of telepathy to understand the two species and in their empathy with them gain insight into their strained marriage.

If this story was any more heavy handed it would have to be made from neutronium. It starts with pages of clumsy exposition and then follows that up with some particularly ham-handed parallels. And the whole this is extremely predictable; I could tell you where the story was going from page three. Top that off with one of the most bland couples as the protagonists and this is a story to avoid.

by C. J. Cherryh
1979 Hugo Winner for Best Short Story

A young woman sees the world overlaid with images of death and destruction. She lives each day seeing death in the faces of those around her until one day she finds someone who appears normal. Cherryh's take on precognition is interesting and I found the story enjoyable even though I knew where it was headed (the story's title is a bit of a clue). She captures the complications in dealing with those visions wel. This is a concept that I think I would have enjoyed seeing expanded on in a longer work but the tiny image she paints with it is worth reading.