No wonder LJ’s editorial staff were atwitter over Hugo Award nominee Scalzi’s (Redshirts) latest novel—it kicks ass! It’s hard to sum up pithily the background where Earth has finally cut off supplying soldiers and colonists to the Colonial Union (CU). As the CU struggles to get Earth back into the fold, it also needs to avoid conflict with any of the other 600 races in the universe at all costs; diplomacy is the new gold standard. Though each can be read independently, chapters function as a tapestry of related missions with fast plot movement and political intrigue joined with “hard” sf. Characters overlap; most, but not all, chapters feature Ambassador Ode Abumwe’s diplomatic mission group supported by Lt. Harry Wilson. “She was acerbic and forbidding; he was sarcastic and aggravating.” Wilson, the mission’s token Colonial Defense Force (CDF) soldier, is like all CDF: ex-Earth, completely green with bionic blood, and a kind of iPad device embedded in his head. His wry, sarcastic humor, chutzpah, capability, and can-do attitude make him the effective amalgam of Scotty, Spock, McCoy, and Kirk all rolled into one funny green man. Refreshingly, most of the missions are fairly low-level political stuff (e.g., trading for Burfinor medical technology); nothing cosmos-threatening, no epic sagas, and it’s unfailingly confounding to see fiction “real” future life that reflects today’s—down to the stereotype of media talk show hosts. Despite the diplomatic shenanigans and Wilson’s cheerful insouciance, the possibility of an upcoming human division is real. Earthlings need to choose between “a forced alliance with former oppressors” or leaving the CU to join a large political bloc called the Conclave. Which would you choose? Verdict Enjoyable, lol funny, readable, and realistic. Bradbury or Asimov fans will OD on this.
Finally I arrive at my present library, the one in Bradford, Ohio. It’s a small library, but then, Bradford is a small community, of about 1,800. For that community, the library holds books, and movies, magazines and music; it has Internet access, which folks here use to look for jobs and to keep in contact with friends and family around the county, state and country. It hosts local meetings and events, has story times and reading groups, is a place where kids can hang out after school while their parents work, and generally functions as libraries always have: A focal point and center of gravity for the community — a place where a community knows it is a community, in point of fact, and not just a collection of houses and streets.
I don’t use my local library like I used libraries when I was younger. But I want my local library, in no small part because I recognize that I am fortunate not to need my local library — but others do, and my connection with humanity extends beyond the front door of my house. My life was indisputably improved because those before me decided to put those libraries there. It would be stupid and selfish and shortsighted of me to declare, after having wrung all I could from them, that they serve no further purpose, or that the times have changed so much that they are obsolete My library is used every single day that it is open, by the people who live here, children to senior citizens. They use the building, they use the Internet, they use the books. This is, as it happens, the exact opposite of what “obsolete” means. I am glad my library is here and I am glad to support it.
Every time I publish a new book — every time — the first hardcover copy goes to my wife and the second goes to the Bradford library. First because it makes me happy to do it: I love the idea of my book being in my library. Second because that means the library doesn’t have to spend money to buy my book, and can then use it to buy the book of another author — a small but nice way of paying it forward. Third because I wouldn’t be a writer without libraries, hard stop, end of story. Which means I wouldn’t have the life I have without libraries, hard stop, end of story.
I am, in no small part, the sum of what all those libraries I have listed above have made me. When I give my books to my local library, it’s my way of saying: Thank you. For all of it.
And also: Please stay.