In a future world, cancer has been all but eradicated. Jimson Alleca can live another 20 years with drugs and a peaceful lifestyle -- if he stays in space-normal. But he's willing to risk it all to make the jump into the Hype, the shimmering "not space" for one year among the stars.

I have a huge thing for choosing a short time of glory over a long stretch of not-so-great, so this premise was right up my alley. I also love the trope of "space will kill you but let's go anyway."

This book is and is not that. The blurb is correct as far as it goes, but the tone and content are not what I expected from it. It's much quieter, the emotions are far more low-key, and what Jimson actually does with his one year before leaving the planet kills him is nowhere near as dramatic as I expected. I liked it for what it was, though the beginning is stronger than the rest, but I'm still looking for the book the blurb promised.

Jimson is an artist with bone cancer under control with treatment, so long as he never goes into space; if he does, it will metastasize and kill him within a year due to radiation exposure. His art is acclaimed in worlds he'll never see, and he's still hung up on Russell, the boyfriend who bailed on him for outer space fourteen years ago and hasn't contacted him since. Jimson has gotten increasingly depressed, bored, artistically blocked, and trapped. Then Russell sends him a photo of himself with no note, and Jimson decides that he's had it: he'll take his one year and go look up Russell.

My favorite part of the book was this part, where Jimson is making his decision and taking interim steps toward it. There's some really beautiful writing and imagery. It's also, despite the sound of it, less about Russell (who has not yet appeared) and more about what Jimson wants to do with his life in general.

Then Jimson finally goes off-planet. I was expecting a desperate, defiant grab at glory and wonder in shimmering not-space. What he actually does is plonk down in a town on another planet, have a low-key affair with a woman pilot, and hang out in a bar. For months. And months. He has ONE YEAR TO LIVE, because he went off-planet, and he spends a whole lot of it not doing anything he couldn't have done on his own planet. I'm not sure if this was the point or what, because eventually Russell shows up and things take a different turn, but also, unfortunately, into anticlimax.

Russell is a giant bag of dicks. Again, I'm not sure if he was supposed to be or not, but I really disliked him. (I did like the portrayal of sexuality - most characters are bisexual and this is unremarked-upon - I just disliked Russell.) He's a space pirate, and realistically they would probably be jerks, but seriously? JERK. He ditches his doomed boyfriend and doesn't contact him for fourteen years, then sends him a photo and nothing else. The vanishing was because he was flipped out over Jimson's illness, and is understandable. The fourteen-years-late space selfie with no note attached? JERK. He then proceeds to be a dick for the rest of the book, though at least Jimson gets to be with him and is at least somewhat pleased about that.

Again, given the suggested delicious melodrama of the premise, Jimson is an incredibly low-key character and so is the book. There's one scene that sort of lives up to the "shimmering hyperspace" bit but Jimson's experience of hyperspace is that it's kind of reddish, and he spends most of it wandering around the spaceship making sure the characters who are doing exciting stuff don't forget to eat.

There's some mild space adventuring which is nowhere near exciting enough that I'd give up my whole life for it, followed by an ending which you may or may not read as a cop-out. Jimson dies, but some of his personality melds with someone else, and the Jimson/not Jimson guy ends up with Russell.

This is at least the second book I've read in which someone chooses to go into space for a brief period of glory before it kills them. The other is Emma Bull's Falcon, which I like a lot but which skips most of the "period of glory" part, jumping from the moment right before the hero goes into space to several years later, when his time is about to run out.

Does anyone know of any more books with that premise? Especially if they actually write it the way it sounds like.

Only $4.00 on Amazon. A Different Light
juushika: Photograph of a row of books on a library shelf. (Books Once More)

From: [personal profile] juushika


I love this book, maybe in part because I came to it familiar with the author and through Jo Walton's review, which focuses on that quieter tone and scale. I sympathize with Jimson's approach to his final year: he doesn't want to have a period of glory, really, and neither would I; he wants to be freed from the restrictions imposed on him, but his focus remains interpersonal and on his art. It's what I come to for Lynn, for a focus on the interpersonal that almost eclipses the larger plot and setting.

"Everyone is bi by default, also: free love" is Lynn's baseline (except when worldbuilding directly contradicts it, in which case how society regulates relationships vs. how people feel is a central theme), and I treasure it above all things. It's a specific sort of wish-fulfillment/idealization which fulfills a lot of my wishes, too.
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