Very Hard Choices - Spider Robinson (2008)

Very Hard Choices is the sequel to Very Bad Deaths, previously reviewed on this site. In Very Bad Deaths, we met Smelly, the telepath who had faked his own death years before, lest he be used for evil purposes by ... well, anyone, really. In Very Hard Choices, Smelly's past comes looking for him, as the result of indiscretions on the part of the only people who know what he is and that he's still alive - the ones who helped him in Deaths.

Once again, Spider Robinson manages the not-inconsiderable trick of finding something new and interesting to do with telepaths. In sci-fi, telepathy is usually either an overwhelming advantage or is countered with ever more telepaths. Robinson, instead, finds a way to harmonize telepathy with the world as we know it. It's conspiracy theory to some extent, but the constraints and explanations he puts on the phenomenon make it more-or-less believable.

Add that to his undeniable gifts as a writer, not just in the realm of plot, character and setting, but also as a stylist and wordsmith, and the result is a damn fine read.

Let me get back to character for a moment. The characters, both good and bad, created by Robinson are compelling. One of the great difficulty in writing good fiction is creating characters with depth, who aren't just plot devices. Robinson truly excels at this aspect of his craft, sketching in the outlines with a master's hand, and then filling in the details with a graceful aside here or an off-hand comment there. And he makes it look easy.

I recommend this book, but I also recommend that you start with the previous one, Very Bad Deaths if at all possible.

Overall Grade: A-

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