Monday, March 1, 2010

The Hugos: The Big Time

Bookmonkey's posted his review about a Hugo winner by Fritz Leiber called 'The Wanderer'.
My own Leiber for today is 'The Big Time', the 1958 Hugo winning novel. Like almost every other fifties Hugo winner, I liked it immensely and I read it more than three years ago.
I liked it well enough to buy my own copy (pictured left) and to want to reread it again. I liked it well enough to give it 4 stars out of 4 on my little review sheet. I can't for the life of me conjure up a lot of details anymore. I remember thinking it would make a great stage play or awesome low-budget movie, since it's all set in one room: a combination operating theater and nightclub for time-traveling soldiers fighting "The Change War". The Change War or 'Big Time' is a war taking place across all of time. Kind of like the Temporal Cold War of Star Trek: Enterprise or the oft-mentioned Time War of 21st Century Doctor Who. Except Leiber did it first.
Instead of Time Lords vs Daleks or Romulans vs Humans the Change War is being fought by the Spiders and the Snakes. (our protagonist works for the Spiders, so that SORT OF makes them the good guys?) No one fighting it knows for sure. Also nobody knows what started the war or how it ends (if it ever ends) but they know they have to escalate it ad infinitum to affect the ever-changing timeline. They battle on from the murk of mythology to the uncertain future a billion years hence. It's full of cool concepts: one I was particularly fascinated by was a medical device that INVERTED patients without killing them so the doctor could repair their wounds without cutting the skin. If I may be permitted a 'Yeeurggghhh'?
It's a deeply engrossing book with good characters, and it's short and sweet. May I recommend reading it once you've read 'The Wanderer'? Or in publication order. Either way works. (But the Spiders want you to read it in publication order. And the Spiders DEFINITELY have your best interests at heart.)

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