Wednesday, February 01, 2012

you and me and Smelly makes three

Title: Very Hard Choices
Author: Spider Robinson
Bookmark: that business card, again.  It was handy.

A few months ago, I started an office library.  People could bring in books they owned, add a Post-it with their name, and drop them on a shelf for anyone to access.  Knowing how some people treat books (curling the covers of paperbacks, dribbling food in them, smashing bugs between pages--I even know someone who used to read in the shower.  Appalling.), I was hesitant to involve books which were important to me, but I sent a cautionary email about handling other people's stuff, and the project has gone pretty well.  It gets less use now that someone has claimed that room as an office and moved all the books to a bottom shelf, hidden behind his desk, but I still managed to find a book with the coolest author name ever.  I would have read it just for that.  As it turns out, there's plenty of reason to read a Spider Robinson book.

Sure, his politics are all through it, but there are great lines (even paragraphs) comparing the US and Canada, and sentences which simultaneously mock and laud our neighbors to the north.  The book can be both hilarious and terrifying, and despite the fact that it's a sequel, I had convinced myself while reading that it only seemed that way.  The story is so complete on its own that it doesn't need something else to lead into it, although I admit that I spent most of my time wishing I knew the story to which they kept alluding, because it seemed even more wrenching than Very Hard Choices.

Russel Walker, a reclusive national columnist, was college roommates with Zandor "Smelly" Zudenigo.  Smelly never bathed, and is described as looking like the Michelin Man with a childlike version of Winston Churchill's head.  Oh, and he's a telepath.  But Walker doesn't learn that until the previous book, when Smelly comes to him for help after discovering that a very bad man is planning to do very horrible things to a completely innocent family.  They enlist the help of police constable Nika Mandic to stop the bad guy.

This book covers what happens next, after the bad guy is no longer a problem, but a new bad guy appears on the scene, and he wants Smelly (usually referred to as "Zudie" in this book, because his island hermitage, far away from the noise of other minds, allows him to have a more conventional hygiene schedule, as he had previously used the stench to keep people away while protecting his secret mental powers).  Russel, Nika, and Russel's son Jesse must deal with the mysterious agent tracking them across the island of Heron Rock, contact the elusive Zudie, and figure out what to do to protect themselves and each other.  The whole book (except for a couple obligatory flashbacks) takes place over one night.  It's excellent, even if the ending is a bit pat.

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posted by reyn at 10:59 AM


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