Nicky of Chasing Dreams allowed me to lend this book from her. Thanks Nicky!
A charming 3.5(4) out of 5
The Muskies: spawned in Earth’s long childhood of fire and stone, they flourish in the stinking hell Man calls ‘civilisation’. They ride the wind: gaseous beings perceptible to Man only now that a monstrous experiment has heightened his sense of smell – and destroyed civilisation in the process.
And so a slow, destructive war breaks out between the Muskies and the scattered settlements of human survivors, a war that threatens humanity’s very existence.
Only the Telempath can stop it, but he’s missing one arm – and wanted for the murder of his father.
I must admit that I really resonate with Spider Robinson on many aspects of his thinking when it comes to the characters, scenario, and plot of this fascinating (and of suitable length) novel. I will admit that from an emotional perspective, I was not fully invested into the story or the characters. Yes they had substance, style, wit, and a host of enjoyable characteristics. However, the only lasting impression I’m experiencing of the book is it’s ingenuity (the Muskies), and how well the story progresses – cleanly.
The story follows Isham Stone in a post-Exodus mission to kill the man who “ended the world”, and revealed the pollution humanity has been trudging through since the introduction of pollutant fuel. And also the presence of Muskies in our atmosphere. What begins as an assassination mission becomes a journey of self-discovery and personal growth.
In the course of the story, we meet a whole cast of characters, each very well written and believable, who really ground the story. They show us how we, like Isham Stone, tend to be too self-focused and able to justify our apparently necessary actions even if they are wrong – as long as they feel right. How our actions don’t just affect us but those around us, and to continually live in that state of self will invariably lead to more harm than good.
It is a story of reconciliation, healthy compromise, and beyond that – harmony.
What I enjoyed most about the writing lay in the fact that Isham has a good sense of humour. Cringe-worthy puns, witty comebacks, and an almost nonchalant persona gives Isham a sense of “newness” to characters I often read. Sure I can name a few characters who have the same qualities in books I’ve read, but this read as a different version of those qualities.
As a writer, I always struggle with writing races and Spider Robinson did it brilliantly. There wasn’t any unnecessary addition of skin colour, etc, just to remind the reader of the character. I also enjoyed the fact that there is some diversity not just in race but sexual-orientation and other things, without them being overbearing or placed into stereotypical roles. After all, this is the world after the world “ended”. Robinson handled all of these superbly in my opinion.
There were also a few traits in Isham I resonated to, particularly his thought processes and the ability to ignore glaringly obvious things in our lives and we need a strong hand (or voice) to smack us back to the truth we keep avoiding. My personal experience anyway.
While there were times when dialogue just seemed to go on forever, it felt natural considering the context. I felt that putting the “info dump” into dialogue both progressed the story and slowly revealed to us readers (and whichever characters were present) the unknown facts. The unraveling truth. The world-views and postulations. The untold stories in the bigger stories. Great writing.
PS: I feel like this is what we should all remember as people: our experiences and memories of events are limited to our perception of them. We could all experience the same event and yet all recognize and glean different impressions of it (as well as similarities). Am I then more “right” than you if I come away feeling something you didn’t? Am I “wrong” for seeing it differently? Doesn’t our world-view create a blind spot in that experience because we do not know everything and can be willingly ignorant of things that don’t concern us? *shrugs – rant over*
The opening line of the book reads: “I hadn’t meant to shoot the cat.” – and that summarizes early book Isham Stone really well. By the end of the book you still recognized him, but as two main characters in the book say (omitted for spoilers), “He’s grown up.”
I sadly didn’t come away with an exuberant love for the book or Spider Robinson. But I did feel satisfied. I did enjoy the book. It was well written from beginning to end.
PS: You only learn at the end why the book is called telempath and that is fine. The name was not necessary to the story and I love that.
Did you know: Telempath was Spider Robinson’s first novel, and is an expansion of his 1977 Hugo Award-winning novella By Any Other Name.
Spider Robinson is an American-born Canadian Hugo and Nebula award winning science fiction author. He was born in the USA, but chose to live in Canada, and gained citizenship in his adopted country in 2002.
Robinson’s writing career began in 1972 with a sale to Analog Science Fiction magazine of a story entitled, The Guy With The Eyes. His writing proved popular, and his first novel saw print in 1976, Telempath. Since then he has averaged a novel (or collection) a year. His most well known stories are the Callahan saloon series.