RogerBW's Blog

Abducticon, Alma Alexander 29 January 2016

2015 science fiction. At a regional American SF convention, things are going with the usual level of chaos… until the entire con hotel gets kidnapped by time-travelling androids.

Which you'd think would be a recipe for excitement, adventure, and really wild things. Not so much, it turns out.

There have been a couple of books set at F/SF conventions before: Deep Secret, which I loved, and Bimbos of the Death Sun which I enjoyed on initial reading but which now feels to me mostly contemptuous of its fannish idiosyncrasies. This one is… more of an oddity.

It's a very slight book, at less than 80,000 words, and its main problem is that it tries to do distinctly too much. (This is often a first-novel problem, but Alexander has apparently written fantasy before.) There's a huge cast, but most of them only get one or two mentions, and nobody ever really develops a personality. There are lots of things that might make interesting plots, but they're either left unresolved or neatly parcelled up and no longer a problem.

For example, the con chair Andie Mae Wilkinson has led an organisational coup against Sam Dutton, who'd been doing the job for a quarter of a century; she burned some of her allies in the process, in order to have sole power… but why? What did she want to do differently? Apart from a couple of minor programming tweaks, we never find out. And Sam has turned up as a regular member, but… it turns out that he's completely uninterested in having a big fight, he's just curious to see what she's changed. So, er, that was that then.

(This is a con chair who also runs Ops whenever she's awake. Which, well, I'm sure there are conrunners who are that stupid. And this Ops has live video feeds from all the meeting rooms.)

I don't know whether this is meant to be a roman à clef; I don't know California fandom these days (this is a mixed con but it seems to be more film/TV than books). There are certainly lots and lots of references made to visual SF, and if you like the sort of person who would rather play spot-the-reference with a quote than say something original you'll probably find several of the characters amusing.

On the other hand there's also quite a bit of philosophising about the nature of humanity and its relationship with the robots it creates as they become more intelligent, which sits oddly against the comedic background of the usual things that go wrong at conventions. There's discussion of the Asimovian laws, in which it's apparently news to people that nobody in the real world has ever attempted to emulate them. As Rudy Rucker put it in Software:

The mass of humans were born slave drivers. Just look at the Asimov priorities: Protect humans, Obey humans, Protect yourself. Humans first and robots last? Forget it! No way!

But nobody here has read Software, so they have to work it all out from first principles.

The writing is pedestrian, the characters are nonexistent, and the plot is predictable from the moment time travel is mentioned. The book doesn't offend except in the sense that an American Budweiser offends: not by being unpleasant, but by being nothing at all. At least it's short.

[Buy this at Amazon] and help support the blog. ["As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases."]

Comments on this post are now closed. If you have particular grounds for adding a late comment, comment on a more recent post quoting the URL of this one.

Tags 1920s 1930s 1940s 1950s 1960s 1970s 1980s 1990s 2000s 2010s 3d printing action advent of code aeronautics aikakirja anecdote animation anime army astronomy audio audio tech aviation base commerce battletech beer boardgaming book of the week bookmonth chain of command children chris chronicle church of no redeeming virtues cold war comedy computing contemporary cornish smuggler cosmic encounter coup covid-19 crime crystal cthulhu eternal cycling dead of winter doctor who documentary drama driving drone ecchi economics en garde espionage essen 2015 essen 2016 essen 2017 essen 2018 essen 2019 essen 2022 essen 2023 existential risk falklands war fandom fanfic fantasy feminism film firefly first world war flash point flight simulation food garmin drive gazebo genesys geocaching geodata gin gkp gurps gurps 101 gus harpoon historical history horror hugo 2014 hugo 2015 hugo 2016 hugo 2017 hugo 2018 hugo 2019 hugo 2020 hugo 2021 hugo 2022 hugo 2023 hugo 2024 hugo-nebula reread in brief avoid instrumented life javascript julian simpson julie enfield kickstarter kotlin learn to play leaving earth linux liquor lovecraftiana lua mecha men with beards mpd museum music mystery naval noir non-fiction one for the brow opera parody paul temple perl perl weekly challenge photography podcast politics postscript powers prediction privacy project woolsack pyracantha python quantum rail raku ranting raspberry pi reading reading boardgames social real life restaurant reviews romance rpg a day rpgs ruby rust scala science fiction scythe second world war security shipwreck simutrans smartphone south atlantic war squaddies stationery steampunk stuarts suburbia superheroes suspense television the resistance the weekly challenge thirsty meeples thriller tin soldier torg toys trailers travel type 26 type 31 type 45 vietnam war war wargaming weather wives and sweethearts writing about writing x-wing young adult
Special All book reviews, All film reviews
Produced by aikakirja v0.1