Review: INCI

Posted: March 15, 2016 by in Books that are Mediocre (3/5 single_star) Meta: Mike Resnick, Science Fiction

After seeing my most recent review of a Mike Resnick book, you might be surprised that I’d pick up another so quick. The fact of the matter is that I actually read this one before that one, but there’s a condition that most reviewers have where if they really love or really hate a book, it’s oh so easy to drop everything else, forget the queue, and just bang that one out first. The fact that this happened with my previous Resnick review should probably tell you that there wasn’t much to this book, and you’d be mostly right, but let’s be complete and get all the details, because it wasn’t all that bad…

INCI (Amazon) is something of a concept book, in my mind. Really it’s more of a collection of shorter stories bundled into a single package. I’d seen co-authored books before where the well-known author would come up with the bones of a story, and the unknown co-author would flesh it out with actual prose. I’ve usually found those attempts to be not so successful. Mainly because I’m such a stickler for good writing, and if an author doesn’t have very many publications under their belt, it’s likely their writing isn’t going to be all that stellar.

This book, however, was slightly different than that. There were two shortish stories written by an author I’d never heard of before (although, I might have if I’d kept up with Writers of the Future), and then a novella written by Mr. Resnick at the end. Each of the stories was connected by a single idea, but were separated from one another by character or location or time. This is apparently the eighth in The Stellar Guild series, each with the same kind of co-author setup.

The idea of the stories in this book revolves around certain individuals who are living on multiple different alien worlds that instigate a large set of others to form up into religious-type groups after the instigator is crucified, or nailed-up and left to die in a very public manner. Essentially, it’s the concept of a person analogous to the Christian “Christ” showing up at some time during the histories of multiple alien worlds across the universe.

Resnick’s novelette is very typical in style to his other works: talking heads, corny dialogue, and formulaic story. So, I’d like to focus more on the unknown author here, if I may. I was actually somewhat impressed by her ability to string words together, and that was a very welcome surprise indeed. Her first story was easily the strongest of the three. It tells the story of a Christian Reverend who takes a one-way trip to an alien world named Kaus with the intention of teaching the local aliens about his religion.

The characterization of Rev. Barker was pretty good. He was all alone on a far-off world with a few humans that didn’t care a lick for what he believed and an alien race that couldn’t understand him at all. His journey was interesting, his character sympathetic, and the ending of the story was one that I could really get behind.

An interesting idea for an author mashup, but INCI didn't really do much for me. However, I would like to see some more of Tina Gower's work, having read it

The second story, I really didn’t understand though. A dying woman comes across the buried story of Rev. Barker and pleads with her journalist-type husband to pick the story up and run with it. There wasn’t much to this one, and most of it felt like it involved details that were completely unrelated to the idea at large; instead, telling the story of the couple at the expense of the Science Fiction idea being presented. In most instances I would say, tell the character’s story, but in this case it became too much about the characters and too little about the overarching story. This just happens to be one of my main complaints about A Song of Ice and Fire, but that’s kind of beside the point.

An interesting idea for an author mashup, but this one didn’t really do much for me. However, I would like to see some more of Tina Gower. She definitely caught my eye with this one.

  • Recommended Age: 15+
  • Language: Not much, but some strong
  • Violence: Nope
  • Sex: Nil

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