Planetary surveyors Fin and Carson battle hostile terrain, bureaucratic red tape, and renegade "planet crashers" in this latest novella by the talented author of Doomsday Book.
Connie Willis continues to demonstrate her endless versatility in this archly written satire, which is both a love story and a shameless expose of the dark side of political correctness.
Willis's short novel could hardly be more different from her last, the Hugo and Nebula Award-winning Doomsday Book , which dealt with a time-travelling jaunt from the 21st-century back to Europe during the days of the Black Plague. On a rather nondescript alien planet, two hardy planetary surveyors (Findriddy and Carson), a visiting ``socioexozoologist'' (Evelyn Parker) and their alien guide (Bult) embark on a mapping expedition. To avoid any appearance of imperialistic insensitivity, the government has imposed strict rules on the surveyors and allows indigenous guides to fine them. Willis plays it mainly as a farce: Bult takes full advantage of the situation, coming up with creative fines and spending the proceeds on umbrellas, shower curtains, slot machines and the like. Parker prattles on about the bizarre mating habits of various species, while Fin and Carson bicker like an old married couple. It's all fairan old married couple. It's all fairly amusing, though by the end the story hasn't really gone anywhere--Willis ties up the loose ends and returns to the beginning with Fin and Carson resuming the spat over a lost pair of binoculars which they were having on page one. A pleasant diversion, but there's little for the reader to take away when she's done.