From the Couch to the Moon has put up her review of Fritz Leiber’s The Wanderer.
In the interest of helping you make informed decisions about your choices in book bloggers, I’m posting my retro review, from September 9, 2010, of the same book.
I think she does have a point about Leiber’s “eye-winking tributes” to science fiction.
Larry Niven told me he’s fond of this novel.
Review: The Wanderer, Fritz Leiber, 1964.
Lucifer’s Hammer sort of set me up for disappointment with this novel. Both novels flip back and forth between a large cast of characters before and after a disaster that comes from the heavens. Both depict that destruction in full immersion 3-D, Dolby Digital IMAX glory. Both are pretty rigorous in their science at the beginning though this novel, due to its plot twists, ends up in space opera territory. Still, a story where the moon gets chewed up, millions die from tidal waves, and civilization starts to fray should be more entertaining than it turns out to be.
The characters are colorful enough, all met on the eve of a lunar eclipse. They include a group of “saucer students”, an American astronaut on a lunar base, a man sailing solo across the Atlantic, a has-been actor on a mission to bomb the Presidential Palace of Nicaragua, a sex-crazed couple in New York out to compose a musical, a couple of poets in the UK, a would-be treasure hunter off the seas of Vietnam, a captain ferrying fascists on an atomic-powered liner en route to a coup in Brazil, a science fiction fan who falls in with a dying millionaire, and a German scientist who absolutely will not accept any evidence of the apocalypse apart from his own instruments. The Black Dahlia killer just may put in an appearance too. They are all interesting, colorful, their segments generally at the right length.
The plot? After a lunar eclipse, another big object appears in the sky, the moon starts to get ripped apart, and massive tidal devastation – along with volcanic eruptions and earthquakes – is caused by that object. The first hundred pages mysteriously dragged for me, though. I think less ominous foreshadowing and anarchy and strife – at least on stage – than in the longer Lucifer’s Hammer explains my dissatisfaction.
However, the latter part of the novel introduces a new and surprising element very much in keeping with some of Leiber’s short fiction which sides with the dangerous and eccentric over an enforced safe, sane order of things. Aliens, cats, E. E. “Doc” Smith, and interspecies attraction all make an appearance too.
Read it for the characters and that last third and not for disaster porn.