Sunday, February 14, 2010

Book Review: The Wanderer

The WandererFritz Leiber
Awards: Hugo
Rating: ★ ★ ★ - -


The first half of this book was great.

One night, a new moon suddenly appears in the sky. It is right next to our original moon, but four times bigger and covered with purple and yellow designs. At first the new moon appears to be benign but then it puts out tendrils towards our moon and begins ingesting the moon’s material, as if it was grinding it into dust and sucking it through several straws. At the same time, the pull of this gigantic new mass in our orbit begins to cause all kinds of disasters including earthquakes and super-duper high tides which destroy most of the world’s coastal cities.

A group of humans and one cat all coincidentally happen to be on the same Los Angeles beach on the first night that the new moon appears in the sky. They realize that LA has been reduced to rubble by tidal waves and they band together to survive and find higher ground.

One of the guys in the group happens to be holding the cat when he and the cat both get sucked up by some kind of ray into the new moon. And of course the moon turns out not to be a moon at all but a spaceship, powered by moon-matter and crewed by aliens that look like human-sized cats, and they sucked him up because they were really just trying to suck up the cat, thinking that the cat was the more intelligent species.

From here, unfortunately, the book goes rapidly downhill. After some initial confusion and hostility on both sides, the human reaches a sort of accord with the aliens and finds out that they are a renegade space-faring group trying to escape from a fascistic federation of worlds that wants to make them conform to a rigid code of behavior, and they are running away from the federation's enforcers. I thought there was potential for plenty of action as the humans and the cat-aliens figure out how to work together and resolve what to do about the enforcer-aliens who are chasing them and what they’re going to do about not us having a moon anymore. But the resolution was disappointing - simplistic and chummy, like a stereotypical 1960s-era space movie. And the cat-alien was irritating and, well, catty.

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