I did not mean to start reading the Campbell Award books on the plane, but I did, in fact, wind up reading stories by two and a half of them. In the interests of writing about the stories while they were still fresh, I decided not to finish the third story just yet (since that particular author has several other stories in the Hugo Pack), but instead concentrating on reading all the works by the second author whose story I’d actually finished. So today, you get J. Mulrooney and Laurie Penny.
It turns out that Mulrooney’s novel, An Equation of Almost Infinite Complexity was also nominated for a Hugo by the Puppies, but did not have enough votes to get up. I did not know this when I started reading it, but in retrospect, it does not surprise me. There is something about the Puppy sense of humour that invariably fails to appeal to me.
The story is about an actuary who claims, in a job interview, that he can use statistics and charges to tell you the exact day any particular person will die. He’s bullshitting, but he lives next door to the Devil (who is the minister at a local church), and meets Death at one of his parties, and steals his notebook, at which point his problem is really trying to convincingly reason backwards from the results to get plausible questions.
The book thinks it is terribly funny and cynical and witty. There are lots of conversations which are circular and full of misunderstandings and allusions to other things. It actually reminds me a lot of some literary fiction I’ve read – the characters are all entirely unlikeable (and not always consistent in their characterisation), their relationships are unpleasant and superficial and about objectifying each other, and it just seems to be nasty for the sake of being nasty. I suspect it is about to be obnoxious about religion (I suspect it is already being obnoxious about religion).
I want to know what happens which is a pain because I don’t actually want to read any more of the book.
The trouble with reading a book with such a strong focus on mortality when you are on a plane is that you start thinking, well, what if the plane crashes or catches fire on landing (the plane really made a nasty crunching clunking noise on take off, which was not reassuring)? What if I only have one hour and forty minutes left to live? Do I really want to spend it reading this book?
I do not.
So I gave up on that one at the 30% mark (which was 95 pages in, so I really do think I had given it a reasonable opportunity to not annoy me, which it had failed to take), and moved on to the next story on my list.
(I probably should go back and at least see how the book ends, but you know, I’m feeling pretty aware of my mortality right now, which is at least partly the author’s fault. I could die at any moment. And there are so many other books I’d rather be in the middle of when I do.)