Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Review by JD: Very Hard Choices ~ by Spider Robinson



A slightly wacky and off beat story which is the second in a series, and based on a central character who is a telepath.

John’s Thoughts:  A clever story and a fun read. The book spine says “science fiction” and the cover art reinforces that description, though in fact it’s nothing of the sort. It’s set in the present day and there is nothing “sciencey” about it at all; the only oddball thing being that one of the central characters is a telepath.

The story revolves around an unlikely group of four people – an aging pot-smoking ex-hippie writer; his brilliant but strange roommate from college days who turned out to be telepathic; a hard-headed and tightly wound female Canadian detective; and the writer’s son, who has been totally pissed off with his dad, somehow blaming him for the untimely death of their beloved wife/mother. All four live their lives in different forms of isolation. The writer, Russell, has relocated to a far-flung corner of Canada to avoid the worst excesses of the United Sates. Because of his powers, Zudie (the telepath) cannot bear to be around people and lives in total isolation and secrecy. Because of the strained family relationship, Jesse (the son) lives as far away as possible from his dad and lives a lifestyle that couldn’t be more different. The detective, Nika, is so serious and wrapped up in her work that she seems to have no time for fun or any life outside of her police career.

Russell, Zudie and Nika do share a dark secret, having worked together a few years previously to stop a heinous serial killer. That involved actions that were definitely “off the record” and need to remain unknown to the rest of the world. But now it seems that someone dangerous is desperately trying to locate Zudie. They assume it is linked to the well-connected serial killer, but is it? Everything comes to a head in a tumultuous 24-hour period, which happens to coincide with Jesse making a rare visit to see his dad.

The book has a very creative plot and it has some interesting well-developed characters, particularly Zudie and Russell. It swings between humour, drama, thriller, fantasy and detective story, and then throws in some sharp political messages at the end. The key characters (and Spider Robinson himself) clearly love the United States but have grave fears about the direction the country has taken over the last forty years. It is an easy and enjoyable read which I blew through in no time at all. I’d rate the book 3½ stars and recommend it to anyone who likes a slightly offbeat and whacky read.

I see that Spider Robinson has been a prolific writer with many novels to his name; I will dig out some more of his books in the future.   

  • Very Hard Choices
  • by Spider Robinson
  • ISBN: 978-1-4391-3303-3
  • Pages 278: paperback
  • Baen Books, 2008 (first paperback, 2009)


Very Hard Choices is second in a series – Amazon purchasing links for US/UK/Canada. It is self contained but in case you’re interested in the first of the series here are links for  Very Bad Deaths – Amazon purchasing links for US/UK/Canada.

As always John will be addressing any comments on and around this book review. Please be sure to check the follow up box to get his response.

Have a great Wednesday!

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