The mother planet, Earth, ruined and abandoned, is now a distant and unimportant memory. There is galactic war between galactic factions (presumably humanoid although who knows for sure). A new power source is being used to operate space ships and even to control planets … it is the Mind.
Wait, wasn’t that a Star Trek episode from the 1960s?
How about the once important person escaping from pursuers who creates friction with the local power structure but in the end is instrumental in saving the planet’s Mind from forever wandering and saving the locals from sure destruction.
Do the two antagonists kiss and make up or do they both recognize the value each brings to the galaxy and go their separate ways into an unspecified future?
Okay. It was a short novel and was reasonably well written. It held my interest only to the extent that I always knew it would be over soon. If it had been hundreds of pages like some of those big, honking scifi classics like Dune or Stand On Zanzibar I would have tossed it out the forward port to drift off towards Planet #23.
I have a theory of literature and perhaps life in general. It’s not unique, but it does seem reasonable:
We like what we like, no matter how bad it is.
As a corollary, I don’t like Science Fiction therefore I didn’t like On a Red Station, Drifting, no matter how good it was.
I’m sure we all have certain characteristics that we expect in our reading and if those characteristics are there, then we are happily in our comfort zone. It is when these characteristics are slavishly followed that we can call it Check-List Fiction or, as time and big-box bookstores call it, Genre Fiction.
I have heard many arguments through the years that some genre fiction is so good that it should be considered Literary Fiction. Now, beside the point that the term “Literary Fiction” is an abomination, I think the confusion is over the need to touch all the bases in Genre Fiction: the hunky romance guy, the horrible B. E. M., the cattle baron with hired gunslingers; the trod upon shamus; the ultra-sexy temptress, the honest and brilliant officer of the law, the brave comrade in arms. It’s when something that looks like genre fiction has the audacity to change or even ignore the time-honored characteristics of the genre that the opportunity for something more literary or imaginative is exhibited.
So if you love Science Fiction and get upset when it doesn’t seem to follow the rules, you can think of it two ways: first, the fiction fails because it doesn’t meet your concepts of what Science Fiction should be, or second, there might be more to the fiction than you expected and you might consider reading closer next time.
Of course it could be because the fiction was crap … but that’s for another post.