BooksOfTheMoon

The Callahan Touch (Mary’s Place #1, Callahan’s #6)

By Spider Robinson

Rating: 3 stars

So Mike Callahan is gone, back to his own time and place, and Callahan’s Place was blown up in a nuclear explosion. Is that going to stop the regulars? Of course not. Several years later, Jake Stonebender, our narrator through the series, opens his own bar, Mary’s Place, and the old Callahan’s regulars flock back. Hilarity (or at least puns), as they say, ensue.

This was an enjoyable book to read, but, for me, it misses the magic of the original trilogy. The core theme there was to help those who came in, on the principle that pain shared is reduced, while joy shared is increased. Here, we only get one new person to help in that way: Jonathan Crawford, who is overwhelmed with guilt. Although we have some new characters introduced here, Duck and Naggeneen amongst others, they’re not hurting and in need of solace. We don’t get to see the gang doing what they do best, which means that, I fear, we don’t get to see Robinson at his best either.

This is still an entertaining book, although one for established fans and definitely not a jumping on point for new readers, but it’s to the earlier books what Mary’s Place is to Callahan’s: a good try, but missing a vital ingredient.

Book details

ISBN: 9780441001330
Publisher: Ace
Year of publication: 1993

Callahan’s Lady

By Spider Robinson

Rating: 3 stars

I’m an avid fan of Robinson’s Callahan’s series so when I discovered that he had written more in that universe, I snapped it up, even though it’s not set in Callahan’s itself. This series of four linked stories is, instead, set in Lady Sally’s, a brothel run by Callahan’s wife (the eponymous Lady Sally), which rather than being the usual sort of sordid place that these often are, is instead a ‘house of healthy repute’, where the ‘artists’ deal with ‘clients’ and everyone is happy, in the same way that people are at Callahan’s.

I mostly enjoyed the stories, although I can’t help worrying that Lady Sally’s place feels a little like wish-fulfilment (or is that saying more about me than the author?). As for the stories themselves, the first tells how our narrator, Maureen, comes to work at Lady Sally’s, after being saved from her pimp. The second demonstrates why despite their protests, a teenage boy’s dearest wish is a bad idea; the third is all about control and is probably the creepiest story in the whole book for me, as control is taken away from everyone we’ve come to like. The final story is a bit of a heist and introduces Maureen’s friend, the Professor.

We do meet some regulars from Callahan’s. Mike himself pops up, as do Fast Eddie, Jake (narrator of the Callahan’s stories) and Ralph von Wau Wau, but they all pretty much just have cameos. I think for me the thing that doesn’t quite gel is that Lady Sally’s doesn’t have quite the same empathy of Callahan’s place. Although the emphasis here, as well as there, is on helping people (clients mostly, in this case) it hasn’t got the camaraderie of Callahan’s famous pub, where everyone clubs round to help someone in need. Although Robinson does try to recreate that formula, for me, he doesn’t quite manage it. Also, the whole romance thing in the last story sort of came out of nowhere and didn’t entirely work for me.

Oh, and I didn’t think the puns were as good as those that get bandied around at Callahan’s either.

Book details

ISBN: 9780441090723
Publisher: Ace
Year of publication: 1989

The Stardance Trilogy (#1-3)

By Spider Robinson

Rating: 3 stars

Of the three books in this omnibus volume, I definitely enjoyed the first the most. That one seemed to have the same sort of ethos as the Callahan’s stories, and the same sense of empathy. I felt that that got somewhat lost in the other two volumes and in particular, I found the protagonist of the second book somewhat annoying and difficult to relate to.

The idea of dance and art more generally was quite central (it being the Stardance books, after all) but I’ve never really been able to appreciate dance to a particularly high level. In particular, I’ve never found it particularly expressive of abstract concepts, something which is quite central to these books. I guess that’s a failure of imagination on my part, though.

It was slightly uncomfortable having Chinese people be the villains across all three books. Admittedly, they were all members of the same family across time, but still, it felt a little uncomfortable to read, but it still felt a little off.

If I were to score each book individually, it would be 4 stars for Stardance, 2 stars for Starseed and 3 stars for Starmind.

Book details

ISBN: 9781416520825
Publisher: Baen
Year of publication: 1997

The Callahan Chronicals (Callahan’s #1-3)

By Spider Robinson

Rating: 5 stars

I’m a very recent convert to Callahan and his place, but I already adore it. These stories, all centred around Callahan’s Place, its weird and wonderful regulars and how they all go out of their way to help others are a joy to read. Warm, witty and humanist, Robinson shows a depth of feeling and empathy that really resonates with me. And the puns, oh goodness, the marvellous truly awful puns! I love puns (even if I’m not very good at them myself) so seeing them celebrated here was a(nother) wonderful thing about the book.

I’ve read many of the stories here in another collection but this is a superset of that, containing all the stories from there and a few others. This means that I can give away the other book, to let somebody else experience the joy of finding Callahan’s Place while I go on and get hold of both the Lady Sally and Mary’s Place books to continue the journey.

The unofficial motto of Callahan’s Place is that pain shared is lessened while joy shared is increased. I’ll get a glass of something, step up to the chalk line and raise a toast to that any day.

Book details

ISBN: 9780812539370
Publisher: Tor
Year of publication: 1988

Callahan’s Crazy Crosstime Bar

By Spider Robinson

Rating: 5 stars

Even if I didn’t love puns, this would be a clear 4-4.5 star book. This book is compassionate and sweet and I want to hug every character in it. The puns are just the icing on the cake for me. I picked it up at this year’s Eastercon, after chatting to someone at the second hand book stall, and mentioning that I’d never read any Spider Robinson. I can’t remember who recommended this to me, but I’d like to shake them warmly by the hand.

The book is a collection of short stories, all set at Callahan’s Place, a bar where the regulars all have something in common: they go out of their way to help anyone who comes in and asks. They help them work out their problems and make them better people, whether they’re aliens, time travellers (the slow way or the fast way), telepaths or just plain people, hurting and in need of someone to listen.

It’s a life-affirming book, whose last story neatly ties back to the first, bringing the story full circle. There are several more books featuring Mike Callahan (and a couple featuring his wife, Lady Sally). After having had my first taste of Robinson be this good, I will certainly not hesitate to buy anything else of his that I see.

Book details

ISBN: 9780099600602
Publisher: Legend / Arrow
Year of publication: 1989

The Best of All Possible Worlds

By Spider Robinson

Rating: 3 stars

Larry Niven opened up his Known Space universe to others to write about a war between Man and the Kzin, a warlike catlike race. This book contains four of the best of these stories. The first two are by Niven himself to introduce the universe and the war but the second two, by Greg Bear and Jerry Pournelle respectively (both co-authored with S. M. Stirling) are arguably the better, not having to set up the exposition with Pournelle’s novella (taking up about half the book) being the best of the bunch. An interesting universe and maybe worth digging into further.

Book details

ISBN: 9780441054831
Publisher: Ace Books

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