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Callahan's Con    by Spider Robinson order for
Callahan's Con
by Spider Robinson
Order:  USA  Can
Tor, 2004 (2003)
Hardcover, Paperback
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

I have read many books by Spider Robinson over the years but only early episodes in the Callahan series. Callahan's Con is a smooth, satisfying read, in a series that has matured to become as mellow as one of the old malts served behind Jake Stonebender's bar.

Robinson has been compared to greats in science fiction, Harlan Ellison and Robert Heinlein in particular. Though he shares with both of them a strong dislike for the bureaucratic process, he is much kinder than Ellison (just imagine what the author of I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream would have done to Robinson's Ms. Czrjghnczl), and (despite the same kind of opinionated, eccentric characters, and the fact that Pixel the Cat Who Walks Through Walls frequents Callahan's saloon) writes a very different kind of story from Heinlein. Spider Robinson has his own voice and it's a strong one.

It seems that, after losing a run-in with a bureaucrat up north, Jake Stonebender (Callahan and family have departed the scene for alien pastures) has relocated the bar to Key West, followed by its loyal patrons. Locals, like Lex the Merman, who occupies a pool in the middle of the bar, have jumped in too. Soon Jake has troubles, which quickly multiply. Field Inspector Czrjghnczl shows up to check on the homeschooling of supergenius daughter Erin, who flits around in time and space and frequently arrives sans attire. Then the monstrous Tony Donuts Jr.'s desire to impress the Mafia (via a successful protection racket) leads to further calamities.

The Callahan crowd decides to sting the Mafioso and set up an elaborate 'Fountain of Youth' con, involving Erin up close and personal. Of course, it goes awry and the resulting sequence of events culminates in the need for a dramatic rescue of Jake's wife Zoey, complicated by the fact that they don't know where or when she is. It's all fun and frothy, but somewhere in there a serious note is injected when it's learned that one of the gang is dying. This results in a reassessment of priorities, along with the usual dose of the author's awful puns. Overall, Callahan's Con is good SF and great fun.

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