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Friday, March 14, 2014
2014 Novella Nebula Award candidate reading continues: TRIAL OF THE CENTURY by Lawrence M. Schoen
TRIAL OF THE CENTURY (Conroyverse #1.5)
LAWRENCE M. SCHOEN
Hadley Rille Books
Free Download at link
Rating: 3.75* of five
The Publisher Says: Slipping in just under the 2013 wire, I’m pleased to announce the release of...my most recent novella, “Trial of the Century,” in which the Amazing Conroy must seek out assistance from the Arconi — the same aliens he ripped off in the very beginning by smuggling a fertile buffalo dog to break their monopoly and build his financial empire. They’re his only hope to awaken Reggie from the coma that I left him in at the end of book one.
My Review: Up for a 2014 Novella Nebula! That's a big deal. The novella was published in a small-press multi-author collection, but the author has quite wisely elected to provide the potential voting public with access to the story in PDF, MOBI, and EPUB formats (see the link above).
I haven't had the pleasure of reading the author's previous Conroyverse tales, but will as soon as they arrive. Every award season should contain a fun and amusing discovery, and this was it for me. Schoen has created a very appealing, slightly louche, and vaguely dishonest stage hypnotist-turned-rat-bastad-capitalist-billionaire pet lover in Conroy. His buffalo dog Reggie is the love of his life, it seems, and the coma mentioned above is causing him untold miseries and lost sleep. Well, dog-loving Jindohead that I am, what could be more precisely aimed at my softest spot? There is no smallest doubt that I was going to read this!
And I did, knowing it was an interstitial not-quite-novel intended to plug a plot hole in the much-longer main Conroyverse narrative. What I gleaned from the read is that this is old-fashioned science fiction, multiple species and FTL travel and all that wonderful, bygone stuff. The buffalito (another and apparently interchangeable name for buffalo dogs) is a species controlled by the Arconi, who appear to be galactic Puritans not only incapable of telling lies (try to imagine civilization without the ability to jolly your mate along with periodic strategic misdirections!) but perfectly able to tell when you are lying...they're telempathic.
So the buffalitos are the Universe's most useful animals, sweet scruffy furry little puppydoggish beings that eat anything, literally anything at all, and produce oxygen from it. Now where do I place my order for about 50? Conroy having smuggled Reggie off Arcon, he builds an empire based on Reggie's fertility producing more and more buffalitos and hands the Arconi their teeth in the scramble for more clients!
They are Not Amused. They destroy Conroy's rival business empire, force him to flee for his life, and as he's now an entertainer on an intergalactic cruise liner, he's in a position to keep ahead of the Puritan bastards.
Until his beloved Reggie falls into that coma. And the Arconi come to "help him" fix Reggie...by taking him back to Arcon and putting him on trial for crimes against the Arconi economy.
Since this is all before book 2 in the series, we know he wins his trial and Reggie comes out of the coma, but the how is an amusing meditation on the many techniques of lying a human has in his quiver. Lying by omission, misdirecting attention, answering a question with a question...none of these are LIES so they don't register as lies with these aliens.
Much amusement and chuckling. Many rueful pursings of the lips. A few impatient snorts. But all in all, this novella served me best by introducing me to Schoen's humorous revival of Golden-Agey SF with all the wild-black-yonder any adventure traveler in an armchair could want. Considered as a separate entity, the novella is lacking in suspense, as it's clear what the outcome will be; but the manner in which we get there is good fun.
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