The Wanderer

Friday, August 24, 2012

The Wanderer
Fritz Leiber, 1964

Hugo Winner 1965

Premise: When it appears in the sky, many don't believe it. Many deny what it is. But the Wanderer is a planet, real, alien, and catastrophic for many of the people of Earth.

It took me a long time to get into this book. And it's not a very long book. Much of it is structured in a way that reminds me of the beginning of The Stand: it jumps between many different groups of people to show how they are affected by the crisis. In The Stand, I think this is brilliant. The problem with it here is that most of the groups are either uninteresting, awkwardly dated in description, or just unsympathetic. I don't really care what happens to the spoiled young people who take refuge in a penthouse or the Brazilian terrorists that you never get any names for.

The descriptions of how and why the planet-ship affects the tides and causes earthquakes is interesting enough, but it goes on a bit long. Frankly, I'd rather more time had been spent making me care about characters affected by said tides, etc.

Once the narrative settles mostly onto one main group of characters on the California coast, it gets more interesting because these characters are given at least a little development. Once we start to learn more about the great planet-ship: its inhabitants and its purpose, it becomes more intriguing still. Of course, we never really know anything about them; they come in, cause chaos, give their account of events, and are gone.

The Wanderer has a problem similar to Stranger in a Strange Land, although not as bad. It takes place at some time forward enough from the time of its writing to have a small base on Mars, but from the characters' attitudes and behavior, they clearly live in, say, 1967. It also suffers for me by not really having much in the way of interesting female characters.

I thought the ending of Margo's plot line was annoying, and I was overall pretty disappointed with this book.

2 Stars - An Okay Book.

List of Hugo Winners

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