Books : reviews

Mary Brown.
Strange Deliverance.
Baen. 1997

rating : 5 : waste of time
review : 4 October 1997

I'd read Pigs Don't Fly, and found it an enjoyably quirky fantasy, so I next tried Strange Deliverance. But I found this one to be a big disappointment.

In the first few chapters, we have a typical Armageddon scenario: some off-screen war is devastating civilisation, and we follow a group of refugees as they escape the war, survive a train crash, and stumble across a strangely deserted village, where they settle down, calling their new home Deliverance. But the village is deserted because the occupants were frightened away by a landing alien spacecraft.

Now we jump ahead about 50 years. The rather unpleasant man who led the refugees to Deliverance is now Mayor; actually he is an almost-benevolent despot, modelling the community into his idea of the perfect society. We follow the life of a few children as they grow to adulthood in this society stagnating under the rule of the Mayor, whilst being strangely influenced by the area where the spaceship, unbeknownst to all, still lies.

All this could have been fine, but I found the story strangely uninvolving. It took me a good few weeks to read, because whenever I put it down, I almost forgot I was reading it. (I only kept going because of the previous book.) The ever-lurking aliens are completely underused; various apparently significant plot developments occur, but then have little influence on the succeeding story; and right at the end a couple of whopping great fantasy elements, in what was up until then straight science fiction, are introduced for no readily apparent reason.

So, is this an alien invasion story? Or a collapse of civilisation story? Or a restoration of civilisation after the collapse story? Or a rebellion against dictatorship story? Or a coming of age story? Or a fairy story? Actually, it's a hotch-potch: it has plot elements from all, and succeeds as none.

Mary Brown.
Pigs Don't Fly.
Baen. 1994

rating : 3.5 : worth reading