This is not an actual review. I do not have the book on hand, and it has been a number of years since I read it. People who own it, have read it more recently, or merely wish to share their own memories are welcome to jump in with comments, corrections or reminisciences. Paging James Nicoll...

The reason I am writing about it is that I mentioned in a comment to a different post that every time I come across anything where Asia or any Asian country is represented as the Big Evil, I recall Starseed and the moment when someone says something very much like, "So, we meet again, Robert... or should I call you Chen Po Chang?!"

Mely wanted to hear more about this book, which has loomed large in my mind since I first read it as one of the worst ever. So I will do my best to explain.

When I was a young teenager, I was very fond of Spider Robinson, and particularly of a novella called "Stardance," about a dancer in zero gravity. As a consequence of this, I read everything he wrote in a short period of time, including the less-good expansion of that novella into a novel. And then, like my father experienced after a youthful experiment consisting of drinking an entire bottle of vermouth, I became extremely nauseated, developed a violent aversion, and vowed to never touch the stuff again.

Robinson's works can have an appealing optimism and sense of loving community. Unfortunately, he loves his characters so much that he cannot bear to have anything bad happen to them, so dead characters frequently get resurrected and melancholy moments nullified. He also features many happy, stoned, touchy-feely hippies who are happily telepathic and condescend to anyone who does not wish to join them in their happy telepathic naked space orgy of loving kindness. For more details, see the post I wrote when this was all fresher in my mind:

In which I rant about vomitous space hippies; contains massive spoilers for practically everything he ever wrote, but since his surprise endings tend to be horrible, perhaps it's better to be braced for them.



I traumatically repressed this myself, but someone else on rasfw noted that in one of the Callahan's books, the world is threatened by a giant space cockroach. But the Callahan's regulars are able to foil this plot because one of them, who is a cop with the bomb disposal squad, just happened to have been called to a suitcase nuke plot, so he goes and gets the suitcase nuke and uses it to blow up the cockroach.



Stardance and its sequel Starseed concern a bunch of hippies who go into space and discover an alien symbiont which enables them to live in a vacuum with no need for air, food, water, clothing, etc. They are all also telepathic with each other. Personally, I don't think that sounds all that great as long as you have a decent life to begin with, because you can't reverse the process, so you're forever exiled from Earth and everyone who's not a telepathic space hippie. Plus, I like eating and drinking.

And telepathy that can't be turned on and off at will, but instead means that you are accessing everyone's mind all the time and they're doing the same to you, sounds like a recipe for mass space murder-suicide, or at least mass space neurosis and misery, not bliss and perfect camaraderie. Here's the thing: no one feels positively toward everyone all the time, nor are all thoughts meant to be shared. If a stray thought about my fat ass or their childhood nose-picking happens to run through someone's mind, I don't want to know!

So the space hippies' smug insistence that anyone who doesn't want this has a stick up their ass bugs me, and also reminds me of annoying people at the commune I grew up in. Additionally, Star Seed has the worst ending I have ever read in a professionally published book. Possibly ever. Oh, and as prompted this entire post: Chinese people? Evil.

I am pretty sure it also contains the line, "Hands on my keyboard touch me far more deeply than hands on my vagina." I may be mis-remembering it slightly, but even so, I recall reading it and thinking, "That is the worst line ever written."



The heroine, who is in training to get the symbiont, gets involved with a Chinese guy, Robert. He seems nice. Until he blows up the space station and kills all her friends. She chases him back to earth, where she learns that he did it because China wants to take over the world or something. This is symbolized by his return to his evil Chinese name. Then his evil Chinese father kills him, and gloats that he's about to kill the heroine, whom he's shot with a paralyzing dart.

As her last request, she asks to meditate. He agrees. She meditates, and achieves enlightenment and becomes telepathic and is able to get in touch with the telepathic space hippies. They can then take over her paralyzed body and decide that the evil Chinese guy wants to die, so they make her paralyzed body go Jet Li on his ass and kill him. Then she goes off to join them.

I swear I'm not making this up.

From: [identity profile] juliansinger.livejournal.com


Callahan's Secret.

I'll read the rest of this when I'm not in a meeting. But YES on the "We meet again, bwa ha ha," thing. (Though it was more like, "I'm after revenge because of what you did to my family, bwa ha ha," only slightly better written.)

From: [identity profile] juliansinger.livejournal.com


I'm now in a different meeting, but I do have to say I can't remember any line like the keyboard one. Unless it's in her bit of depression that takes up about half the book.

But anyway, yes, Chinese people are Evil. In three different books, all of which, yes indeed, also utilize Magical Japanese Zen Meditation. (It's most egregious in Starseed, but it wanders around in Stardance, too. It's more disguised in the last one.)

So Asian people are Evil, and yet /also/ magically delicious. It makes me frothy.

So... what did you think of _Night of Power_?

(no subject)

From: [identity profile] rachelmanija.livejournal.com - Date: 2007-01-10 12:27 am (UTC) - Expand

Press "enter"

From: [identity profile] rachelmanija.livejournal.com - Date: 2007-01-10 12:44 am (UTC) - Expand

From: [identity profile] matociquala.livejournal.com


I swear to God, that is exactly the thing that prompted the whole thing in the Jenny books where the Chinese Bad Guys turn out to be, well, not any worse than the Canadian Bad Guys.


From: [identity profile] elynne.livejournal.com


... what movie is referenced in your userpic? Because ZOMFG Sleestacks. :D

(no subject)

From: [identity profile] matociquala.livejournal.com - Date: 2007-01-09 11:51 pm (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

From: [identity profile] elynne.livejournal.com - Date: 2007-01-10 12:09 am (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

From: [identity profile] matociquala.livejournal.com - Date: 2007-01-10 12:20 am (UTC) - Expand

From: [identity profile] movingfinger.livejournal.com


You should be deeply grateful that you missed the 70's, because Robinson is the quintessence of them. On the other hand, considering your background, I guess you lived through the executive summary.

Why did you remind me of these books? Why? Why?

From: [identity profile] elynne.livejournal.com


Yeah, I also went through a Spider Robinson phase. Like my Dragonriders O' Pern phase, it was intense, but fortunately brief, and I've been able to forget most of it (in some cases, with the help of blunt trauma and healthy doses of liquor). That's a whole bunch of brain cells I'm not going to get back anytime soon...

From: [identity profile] serenada.livejournal.com


Did you have a Darkover phase too? I also had a brief dalliance with those damned pun fantasy books whose name and author is blessedly escaping me.

Sometimes the head injuries have an upside.

(no subject)

From: [identity profile] rachelmanija.livejournal.com - Date: 2007-01-10 12:36 am (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

From: [identity profile] serenada.livejournal.com - Date: 2007-01-10 01:08 am (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

From: [identity profile] elynne.livejournal.com - Date: 2007-01-10 02:40 am (UTC) - Expand

From: [identity profile] rachelmanija.livejournal.com


I never read that one. Please describe it in as much detail as you can manage without vomiting.

(no subject)

From: [identity profile] jonquil.livejournal.com - Date: 2007-01-10 12:38 am (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

From: [identity profile] juliansinger.livejournal.com - Date: 2007-01-10 12:40 am (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

From: [identity profile] james-nicoll.livejournal.com - Date: 2007-01-10 04:16 am (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

From: [identity profile] rachelmanija.livejournal.com - Date: 2007-01-10 04:36 am (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

From: [identity profile] tekalynn.livejournal.com - Date: 2007-01-10 06:34 am (UTC) - Expand

Here, have fun

From: [identity profile] james-nicoll.livejournal.com - Date: 2007-01-10 04:36 am (UTC) - Expand

Re: Here, have fun

From: [identity profile] rachelmanija.livejournal.com - Date: 2007-01-10 04:45 am (UTC) - Expand

Re: Here, have fun

From: [identity profile] juliansinger.livejournal.com - Date: 2007-01-10 06:29 pm (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

From: [identity profile] cofax7.livejournal.com - Date: 2007-01-10 01:12 am (UTC) - Expand

From: [identity profile] rushthatspeaks.livejournal.com


The one talent that Spider Robinson has in magnificent sweeping spades is the God-given field of It Made Sense At The Time. Because I've read all of these, and we have them in the house, and while I knew they weren't, you know, good, the *sheer bugfuck craziness* of it all had been *totally unnoticeable* until I read this entry. Because he can just make you swallow things, sometimes.

Ruth's reaction to this entry was to develop a trembling and pouty lower lip and say "But... but... time-traveling whorehouse!" several times in a rather plaintive voice, before giving way to a chorus of 'Spider Robinson Loves Me This I Know'.

She hadn't thought about it either.

I think she will recover, though she does claim that Spider Robinson made her gay, which means that I personally feel he has made a worthwhile contribution to the human species as a whole and the field of science fiction in particular.

From: [identity profile] rachelmanija.livejournal.com


I give him points for making Ruth gay. But even that does not excuse the enlightenment ex machina or the space hippies. Well, to me anyway, as I'm not the beneficiary.

I think they all seemed to make sense at the time right up till the enlightenment, at which point retroactive critical thinking caused me to hurl his entire oevre at the nearest used bookshop.

(no subject)

From: [identity profile] jonquil.livejournal.com - Date: 2007-01-10 01:36 am (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

From: [identity profile] gaudior.livejournal.com - Date: 2007-01-10 03:09 pm (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

From: [identity profile] sovay.livejournal.com - Date: 2007-01-12 05:41 am (UTC) - Expand

From: [identity profile] matt-ruff.livejournal.com


I am pretty sure it also contains the line, "Hands on my keyboard touch me far more deeply than hands on my vagina." I may be mis-remembering it slightly, but even so, I recall reading it and thinking, "That is the worst line ever written."

It'd make an awesome epigraph, though.

From: [identity profile] fileg.livejournal.com


I've been saying for years: Tact! It elevates us above the angels!

I so agree with everything you've said here with the single exception of "Star Seed has the worst ending I have ever read in a professionally published book." - But only because I've read Childhood's End, (where everyone becoming telepathic whether they will or nil leads to everyone lying about in their own physical and psychic filth...)

(no subject)

From: [identity profile] juliansinger.livejournal.com - Date: 2007-01-10 02:41 am (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

From: [identity profile] jonquil.livejournal.com - Date: 2007-01-10 02:52 am (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

From: [identity profile] juliansinger.livejournal.com - Date: 2007-01-10 02:58 am (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

From: [identity profile] matt-ruff.livejournal.com - Date: 2007-01-10 02:21 pm (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

From: [identity profile] jonquil.livejournal.com - Date: 2007-01-10 02:49 pm (UTC) - Expand

From: [identity profile] elynne.livejournal.com


... I remember the mass telepathy in Childhood's End leading to despair and nukes, but not "lying around in filth". Mind, I found the despair and nukes to be annoying enough...

(no subject)

From: [identity profile] fileg.livejournal.com - Date: 2007-01-10 06:25 am (UTC) - Expand
ext_6977: (Schu (hell))

From: [identity profile] viridian5.livejournal.com


I read Stardance way back when and I was fine with the Kool-Aid until a certain point where I just hit my "Uhm, sure" threshold.

The telepaths in my fiction who are on most of the time generally hate all of humanity because they get to read everybody's unedited thoughts.

This all takes me back. I had my Pern, Darkover, and Xanth phases over ten years ago, though now even the most recent titles of the Xanth books make me wanna find a dark corner and hide.

From: [identity profile] jenfullmoon.livejournal.com


What got to me was that previously, people who wanted to go Homo caelestis had to go through this long training process.

At the end, everyone's forced to do it, whether they want to or not, without training. Um, that would cause major fucking problems!

(no subject)

From: [identity profile] viridian5.livejournal.com - Date: 2007-01-13 08:53 pm (UTC) - Expand

From: [identity profile] sartorias.livejournal.com


I've never been able to read one of his all the way through. (Though i did peek ahead in Stardancer to see if the ending was worth wading through the middle. No.)

From: [identity profile] katie-m.livejournal.com


Stardance and its sequel Starseed concern a bunch of hippies who go into space and discover an alien symbiont which enables them to live in a vacuum with no need for air, food, water, clothing, etc. They are all also telepathic with each other. Personally, I don't think that sounds all that great as long as you have a decent life to begin with, because you can't reverse the process, so you're forever exiled from Earth and everyone who's not a telepathic space hippie. Plus, I like eating and drinking.

Wait. Did they... I mean, did they do anything once they were in space? Did they have propulsion of some kind? (Oh, God, there was a bad thought. Though if they aren't eating...) Or did they just kind of hang around in a big mass of naked space hippiedom?

From: [identity profile] rachelmanija.livejournal.com


Hee, fart propulsion! There was a shot of that in Escaflowne, though perhaps it was just poorly drawn regular giant robot propulsion. As for regular propulsion, I don't recall.

I think there was some vague talk of exploring space, and once you get the symbiont you have perfect recall of all memories in your entire life including being in the womb, which the characters thought was better than having new experiences on Earth (like telepathy, perfect recall is something that Robinson thinks would be an unalloyed positive, but I think we don't have for the sake of our sanity) but all we ever saw them doing was hanging around in a big mass of naked space hippiedom.

(no subject)

From: [identity profile] james-nicoll.livejournal.com - Date: 2007-01-10 05:07 pm (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

From: [identity profile] tool-of-satan.livejournal.com - Date: 2007-01-11 04:21 am (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

From: [identity profile] james-nicoll.livejournal.com - Date: 2007-01-11 03:44 pm (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

From: [identity profile] viridian5.livejournal.com - Date: 2007-01-13 08:57 pm (UTC) - Expand

From: [identity profile] tekalynn.livejournal.com


They fly around and dance in zero gee. They're a dance troupe, so they spend most of their time dancing.

From: [identity profile] tool-of-satan.livejournal.com


Testify, sister!

I was a Spider fan back when I only had four of his books, namely the first two Callahan's books, Melancholy Elephants, and Mindkiller. The stories in the first three are mostly good (although I haven't re-read any in some years, so I might be in for a nasty surprise), and Mindkiller has many positive qualities, although to enjoy it you kind of have to ignore the fact that people whom we are supposed to like take fairly brutal actions justified only by bare assertions.

After that, well... Callahan's Secret, Time Pressure, Telempath, and whatever the first Lady Sally book was reduced my interest in him significantly. I did read the second Lady Sally book for reasons not entirely clear to me now. I think that was the one with the ridiculous Tesla-worship, which may not sound like a major flaw but which, after all the other ridiculousness just made me give up in disgust.

From: [identity profile] jenfullmoon.livejournal.com


Speaking of Tesla-worship, Callahan's Key was a horror.

I don't care if your 3-year-old kid has had the entire Internet downloaded into her head, she is WAY TOO YOUNG to be soliciting for future sex partners once she hits puberty. In front of Daddy, no less.

Even the hippiest of real life hippies would think something was wrong with that.

(no subject)

From: [identity profile] tool-of-satan.livejournal.com - Date: 2007-01-13 01:04 am (UTC) - Expand

From: [identity profile] tafkarfanfic.livejournal.com


I read this earlier this year, and hated it about as much as you did (http://tafkarfanfic.livejournal.com/231229.html). Speaking of racism...do you remember the bit where the Japanese woman dies of suffocation because she's too polite to tell anyone that her oxygen has run out? Because that's the thing about the Japanese, see. They die because they're so polite.

You may enjoy my scathingness in that review. I was much more outraged.

From: [identity profile] naomikritzer.livejournal.com


My seriously mentally ill high school boyfriend was a huge fan of both Heinlein and Spider Robinson and insisted I read Stardance, along with To Sail Beyond the Sunset. (n.b.: that is not a good Heinlein book to pick up as your introduction to his work. Really truly.)

I did not read the sequel. I dimly recall a discussion of sex in zero G and how thrusting doesn't work all that well but 69 is great. That is all I remember from the book.

From: [identity profile] rachelmanija.livejournal.com


dimly recall a discussion of sex in zero G and how thrusting doesn't work all that well but 69 is great. That is all I remember from the book.

You clearly took away the best part.
.

Profile

rachelmanija: (Default)
rachelmanija

Most Popular Tags

Powered by Dreamwidth Studios

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags