…SF addict …

Monday, December 20, 2010

Bob Shaw goes vertical!

I had planned to finish this book earlier but I got the flu with a raging fever and it knocked me sideways. As a result it interfered with my reading (amongst other things like work, and the kids) so a short novel ended up taking flipping ages! (OK 12 days!)
Anyhoo its basically a story about how the invention of personal flight suits years ago has given everyone their own personal freedom of the skies (theyre called CG harnesses-Counter Gravity which sounds a little like the devices Neal Asher describes in his books!)
Due to the easy availability and cheapness of such devices airline travel has been abandoned as no longer cost effective and the sky is full of people, navigating by glowing lines called Bilasers. Some businesses use the bilaser technology to advertise their product in the form of huge glowing ethereal banners-sounds a bit Bladerunner-ish!
Amongst all this is Air Police Officer Rob Hasson (Bob Shaw?) who due to an accident years before has had to hand in his CG harness and badge and try to hide away from the public eye, changing his name slightly. He moves to Canada where he meets another Air Police Officer (Werry) who knows Hasson from years before, and who takes him under his wing. There are funny episodes where Hasson gets to meet Werry's family who are less than taken with Hasson's stiff British ways! Werry also has a blind son who loves to idea of flying and looks forward to seeing again after a 2 year long medical procedure.
It turns out some young dudes are having drug parties on the roof of one of the buildings and generally causing havoc-the locals are unhappy with the way things are being handled and blame Werry before taking things into their own hands. Things come to a head and Hasson must prepare himself to resume his former duties.....
Its a short little tale (158 pages) and if this were any other author I would say nothing much happens in the book but it seeems Shaw enjoys injecting humour into his books. So even in scenes where nothing much IS happening things are enlivened by Shaw's cheeky humour and joie de vivre. I have this image of him smiling constantly while writing this book- a happy chappy indeed! I also discovered that it has an alternative title of Terminal velocity, which does sound a better title for an SF novel!

This is only my 3rd Shaw read (previous being Palace of Eternity and Fire Pattern) but it certainly wont be the last!!

4 comments:

j purdie said...

I've always felt Vertigo was more of a personal novel than his other works: personal in the meaning of dealing with a character more than some scientific object. He certainly spends a lot of time inside Hasson's head. The bit that sticks with me most from this novel is the story about the matches.

Larry said...

Matches? Hmm racking my brain now! My problem was i stopped just past the halfway mark when i became ill and had to pick it up again but could only read brief snatches at a time, which was frustrating!

j purdie said...

The story about shopkeepers taking one match from every box. They pay off was very good in my opinion. And it has stuck with me for years. Odd how things like that stick with you.

Larry said...

Oh yes of course! I wonder if someone Bob Shaw knew actually did that! Or he has encountered a lot of bigotry and racism in his life. What got me was the shopkeeper's name- Oliver Fan! I wanted someone to ask about how an Asian shopkeeper got such a distinctly British name!