I don’t often say this, but I regret reading this book, a collection of short stories by Lindholm (aka Hobb). Not only did I dislike nearly all of them, but many of them were creepy and unpleasant, full of child abuse, animal abuse, preachiness, and despair. In particular, two stories were largely centered around cat corpses. There’s a theme I can do without!

I got the book from the library because I love Lindholm’s Ki and Vandien series, and enjoyed almost all her novels written as Lindholm. (I see cheap used copies of Harpy's Flight
here.) I also liked Hobb’s first two “Assassin” and “Ship” books enough to read most of her other novels, even though the rest ranged from okay to terrible.

But I had forgotten, or traumatically repressed, that of the two Lindholm short stories I’d previously read, one was the charming Ki and Vandien adventure “Bones for Dulath” (not reprinted in this volume, probably because it’s too much fun,) but the other was the awesomely depressing lizard messiah story (which was reprinted, probably because it’s so full of DOOM.) It also contains my new nominee for the ultimate Never befriend a person with problems story.

“Silver Lady and the Fortyish Man” is an exception to the doom parade. It’s a cute urban fantasy romance – a bit too cute for my taste.

“Finis” is a vampire story with a predictable twist ending.

“Drum Machine” is an annoying, preachy sf story about genetically engineered babies, the Horror of Sameness, and how if we eliminate mental illness, we will eliminate creativity. SIGH.

“Cut” is an annoying, preachy sf story in which the price of allowing girls to get abortions without their parents’ permission is that anyone over 15 can now make any bodily alteration without their parents’ permission, but parents can do anything to their children if they’re under 15. The heroine’s grand-daughter is going to voluntarily undergo female genital mutilation, and make her infant daughter do the same. This story was effectively manipulative, but when I’m being manipulated, I’d like it to be little less obvious. The foreword notes that “Cut” isn’t supposed to be an anti-abortion polemic, which is surprising given how exactly it reads as one.

The Inheritance

Cut for spoilers regarding DOOM, child abuse, dead cats, and the Lizard Messiah. )
A classic sf novel about a Jesuit whose faith is tested by aliens who, to his shock and horror, seem to get along perfectly well without religion. They must be a plant by Satan to make humans think that a society can function without religion!

While I normally don’t have trouble setting aside my atheism in order to sympathize with religious characters’ crises of faith, this particular dilemma struck me as so profoundly non-troubling and the conclusion he draws from it so remarkably stupid, that I ended up reading the book feeling morally and intellectually superior to the hero. That is not actually an enjoyable experience. Surely the Problem of the Righteous Heathen is one which an intellectual priest would have encountered before?

I'm not quite getting the "classic" nature of this, though the aliens are pretty cool. Was it that most sf didn't tackle religion at all other than via made-up alien religions?

View on Amazon: A Case of Conscience (Del Rey Impact)

In which there is awesome depressingness )
Most Gratuitously Depressing Novel (involving an apocalypse)

I Who Have Never Known Men, by Jacqueline Harpman )

Most Gratuitously Depressing Novel (not involving an apocalypse)

Out of the Dust, by Karen Hesse )
Most Gratuitously Depressing Short Fiction (involving an apocalypse)

Most Gratuitously Depressing Short Fiction (not involving an apocalypse)

A Touch of Lavender, by Megan Lindholm, and The Necklace, by Guy de Maupassant )
Most Gratuitously Depressing Dramatic Work (involving an apocalypse)

Wolf's Rain )
Most Gratuitously Depressing Dramatic Work (not involving an apocalypse)

In the Company of Men )
.

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