Michael E. Lloyd, Observation One:
Singing of Promises
reviewed by Stefan Brenner
Publisher: Bewildering Press, 2007
Trade paperback: $15.95 U.S.
Length: 317 pp.
A Sideways Glance at Modern Europe
A historically-grounded science fiction story, Observation One: Singing of Promises represents a shrewd and subtle analysis of European civilisation.
Cleverly juxtaposing the as-yet unknown aims of a technically and, it is suggested, morally superior alien culture with the Earthly aspirations of an inexperienced citizen, this first of a trilogy traverses our major cities in a whirlwind tour that is shrewdly satirical and, at the same time, always true to life.
One after another, the fabrics of European institutions are subjected to Lloyd’s penetrating critique, until we begin to wonder whether there is anything worth salvaging. Ultimately, the message is affirmative: whatever the public face of Europe might lack, both value and virtue continue to reside in the music, art and, most importantly, private hearts and minds of its ordinary people. Indeed, towards the end of the book, we find it hard to avoid the conclusion that, for all their technological superiority, Lloyd’s ‘Domans’ might, in their own way, be no better than (or different from) their Terrestrial counterparts...
My initial impression was that Lloyd’s first published book is witty, technically accomplished and packed full of fascinating detail. This, however, is true of much writing which fails to captivate. Not so for Lloyd. Once begun in earnest, its socio-political messages, cultural allusions and musico-literary references only add to the reading experience. As I turned the pages, I found myself increasingly immersed in Toni’s all-too-human struggle to maintain personal integrity in the face of a turbulent and wicked world.
This is a must-read for fans of Janis Ian, but also for those such as myself who presently remain ignorant of her music. Bring on the second instalment!
Copyright © 2007 by Stefan Brenner
Mr. Brenner’s review of Observation Two appears in issue 325.