Sunday, November 30, 2008

Review - "A Boy and His Dog" and "Passengers"

I have completed my NaNoWriMo novel and while I won't inflict it upon any readers I am going to provide a postmortem on the experience in the next day or so; I have a review of Howl's Moving Castle that I wanted to polish off last night for the last Best Script Nebula that may come first tomorrow.

As we come into December I'm going to start reviewing the World Fantasy Award winning novels. I've currently four novels into the list for my reading and have the first ten books already set.

"A Boy and His Dog"
by Harlan Ellison
1969 Nebula Winner for Best Novella

It seems strange to me that I've reviewed the film which won the Hugo for dramatic presentation in 1976 and I'm only now getting to commenting on the original novella. The film is a reasonably accurate adaptation of the novella which is no surprise given Ellison's involvement in the movie.

After a devastating war that has destroyed civilization a young man travels the wasteland with his telepathic intelligent dog. They go to the movies, look for a woman to rape, fight of a gang who wants to take his stuff, and visits an underground community.

The narrative isn't the strong point but the story does convey the setting very well. I found the dog to be an interesting character but the main character got on my nerves. He's a nearly compeltely self-absorbed jerk and doesn't manage to be entertaining in spite of that. The protagonist is a user of people with little to make the reader care about him.

Ellison's prose is as solid as it ever is but I think the lack of a strong narrative thread and interesting characters undermines the story. I think this can be safely bypassed but if you have any interest in Ellison's work then it is one to read.

by Robert Silverberg
1968 Nebula Winner for Best Short Story

In the not too distant future demonic possession has become a fact of life. Occasionaly a person will be possessed by an entity who will drive their body like a puppet and leave them only with vague memories of their actions afterward. A man who woke from a possession where he had a sexual fling finds that he still has memories of the partner. When he encounters her on the street later he tries to start a relationship with her despite the taboo of avoiding those encountered when possessed.

I found myself wishing that Silverberg had expanded this story further. I was interested in what changes people suddenly losing control of their actions would have on society but he only really explores this one aspect of it. It is a very interesting, very well thought out aspect, however.

For a story that was dependent on characters I didn't really get a grasp on who they were and that was a problem but I don't think it was an insurmountable one for the reader. All in all I found it to be a story that was worth reading.