Friday, January 09, 2015

FFB Review: "Bimbos Of The Death Sun" by Sharyn McCrumb-- Reviewed By Barry Ergang

Friday means Friday’s Forgotten Books. Barry kicks off things today with his review of Bimbos Of The Death Sun by Sharyn McCrumb. After you read the review make sure you check out Patti’s blog and check out other possibilities…


BIMBOS OF THE DEATH SUN (1988) by Sharyn McCrumb

Reviewed by Barry Ergang

Winner of the 1988 Edgar Award for Best Original Paperback Mystery, Bimbos of the Death Sun is anything but conventional—despite its setting being a convention. Specifically the science fiction/fantasy convention called Rubicon. Among those in attendance is Dr. James Owens Mega, professor of engineering and author (under the pseudonym Jay Omega) of Bimbos of the Death Sun, the hard science fiction novel he wrote to promulgate his “exercise in pure reason concerning the effects of sunspot activity…He had known that when Alien Books bought it, there would have to be some commercialization, but he hadn’t bargained on being heralded as the author of something called Bimbos of the Death Sun.” A first-time attendee, he is fortunate to be accompanied by his academic colleague and girlfriend Dr. Marion Farley, a professor of English who has taught courses in science fiction and fantasy; who knows the field and the fans—or fen, to use the plural in the enthusiasts’ argot—far better than he; and who knows from past experience how to navigate the alien terrain of this kind of convention.

The most prominent attendee, and the biggest draw for Rubicon fen, is author Appin Dungannon, creator of the novels starring “golden Viking warrior” Tratyn Runewind, a character as appealing as his creator is appalling: Dungannon scornful of and insulting to his avid readership. The majority of the fen are nonetheless tolerant and respectful of—often to the point of being idolatrous
—Dungannon’s behavior. This Rubicon, and any other convention, for that matter, will be the author’s last, because someone has decided to employ what Dungannon himself declares “an out-of-period weapon” and squeezes the trigger. Homicide Lieutenant Ayhan, who is frequently inclined to aver “I love this case” with increasingly frustrated  inflections, is the lead investigator, but it ultimately falls to Jay Omega, who must replace the late Appin Dungannon as Dungeon Master in a role-playing game, to solve the case.

Employing the omniscient viewpoint, Sharyn McCrumb does plenty of “head-hopping,” taking the reader into the minds of a multitude of characters in a novel that satirizes the fan mentality and the extremes to which some will go in their adoration of their favorite fictional heroes and heroines—think Trekkies, for example—as well as those who are into other kinds of sci-fi/fantasy activities: “Wargamers, Dungeon Masters, NASA freaks, comic book junkies, and other assorted fen, costumed and otherwise, sprawled in metal folding chairs facing the stage and waited for the pageantry to begin.” Some of the major characters are well-defined, but many of the lesser ones are dealt with so briefly I sometimes forgot who they and their roles in the story were.

There is also quite a bit of scene-hopping, and I suspect Ms. McCrumb resorted to this method as a structural device to give the reader a sense of the different kinds of things that might occur at this type of convention. Many of the aforementioned lesser characters appear in these scenes.

Mystery is subordinate to satire in this novel, and readers who come to Bimbos of the Death Sun wanting and expecting a traditional, formal detective story are going to be disappointed. Science fiction and fantasy readers will appreciate references to notable authors. Those who enjoy and appreciate a humorous take on a particular subculture will be rewarded with wry-toned literate prose, a lot of smiles, and possibly even a few out-loud chuckles. 


© 2015 Barry Ergang

Derringer Award-winner Barry Ergang’s website is http://www.writetrack.yolasite.com/. You can find some of his written work at Amazon, Smashwords, and Scribd.

5 comments:

NoraA said...

That story was paired up with Zombies of the Gene Pool back in 1998. They are amazingly funny. I also love her mysteries.

Lovely in her Bone - 2000
She Walks These Bone - 1994

Richard said...

I thought this one was terrific when I read it in the late 1990s. It is far from typical McCrumb, so any reader either expecting her series to be like this, or coming from her series and expecting this to be like those books is in for a big surprise.

Shalanna said...

I re-read this a couple of years ago and was amazed at my reaction. When I originally read it, I blew off the mean-spiritedness that is right there for everyone to see. Couldn't fandom (and I, by extension) take a little ribbing? But on re-reading, although I still enjoyed the send-up and thought some of the lines were pure zingers ("That is an out-of-period weapon"), I could not ignore the anger towards fat women (in particular) and hardcore gamers. The girlfriend character particularly is like, "Oh, I used to be like them, but then I realized I could lose weight and get rid of my zits and then I could be like the NORMAL people, and we're SO MUCH BETTER!" I just hate that sort of social-classism. I could not get past those vibes this time. I did enjoy the characters based on real people (the author obviously on the great H. Ellison), but this re-read brought me some unwelcome insights. I still recommend the book, but with reservations because I thought the author treated Brenda (the fat girl) particularly viciously--and I'm not talking about the plot but about just the way she wrote it. Can't we all just acknowledge that people come in all shapes, shades, and sizes?

Kevin R. Tipple said...

When setting up the book for review (I have not read it) I came across some of the controversy over the book. Satire makes fun of everyone. If it does not offend somebody the satire has failed.

Don Coffin said...

It's been years, and I suspect this is a minority opinion, but I have always thought that Sharon McCrumb's career peaked with Bimbos of the Death Sun and Zombies of the Gene Pool.