by Nina Bangs, fantasy (1999)
LoveSpell, $5.99, ISBN 0-505-52324-8
Talk about intriguing premises. Cupid is bored. He is not the chubby little harbinger of love as we know him in other stories, but a bringer of chaos and mischief. Now, having done all sorts of mayhem, Cupid is suffering from ennui. For a lark, he is inspired to try something new, i.e. bring two most incompatible persons together for three weeks and see if they would fall in love (new?). The thing is, he brings Four-Two-N from 2030 and Leith Campbell from the 1700s and shanghais them both in year 2000.
Adding to the fun, in 2030, a virus has wiped out all men for a while now, and women rule the world. Four-Two-N's occupation is creating manly robots to cater for female companionship, and her Stud-Muffin Stuart and Hunka-Hunka Burning Love Leroy models sell like hot cakes. Get your mind out of the gutter - the author isn't daring enough to make those robots functional in all way! Four-Two-N wakes up one morning to find herself sharing a bed with a naked Scotsman (that's Leith), and thinking it is a joke from a rival man/toy-manufacturer, decides to do a little exploring. To test for rivals' trade secrets, so to speak. Boy, is she surprised when that toy salutes her in the grand tradition of old.
Leith and Four-Two-N (whom he calls Fortune, a name that stays for the rest of the book, much to my relief) then stick together to explore this new time and find their way home.
That's it really.
After all that exciting setting of premises, the story fizzles out into a long, minute-by-minute account of everything these two intrepid time-travelers do in the three weeks' time. Unfortunately, the things they do aren't that interesting. They talk a lot, they fantasize about each other's body, they talk some more, they meet a kind couple who takes them in, Cupid meddles a little but is generally inconsequential, and before the day ends, they talk about the things they'd left out earlier the day. Then it's a new day and the cycle repeats. Not very interesting.
The conflict that is supposed to make these two mismatched isn't much either. He sees his foster family massacred by his kin, and is suffering from a massive dose of guilt that surfaces only during convenient times. She is full of self-doubts - Can we last? If we make a baby together, how can I bring him up in isolation? Can I love him? I'm in love with him - does he love me? Can he love me? and on and forth. Again, nothing interesting. Cupid, the next time you want mismatched couples, call me. I'd like to introduce you to this 500-pound couch potato with disgusting table manners and a 50-pound anorexic, spoiled daddy's-rich-girl airhead.
Sometimes even if the plot drags, fun characters can save the show. In this book, Leith and Fortune aren't very fun. Hence I begin to take note of inaccuracies and inconsistencies in the plotting. It is particularly irritating to read the author's naive perception of a world with no males. I'm supposed to believe that with the absence of the Y chromosome in the world, there will be no crime, no violence. Um, I don't think so. Fortune doesn't like the idea of violence. When she is robbed and Leith wants to cobble that scum to a bloody pulp, she intervenes. But my blood pressure hits the roof when she starts advocating logical psychiatrist discussions and peaceful solutions with the thief. If women get this ninny in the future, count me out. This is not World Peace, this is a thief who may hurt you. What's wrong with just shaking that man and hauling his bum off to jail? Nincompoop, that woman. I bet she's the sort of woman who sits down and treats her child like an adult, trying to tell the screaming kid to calm down and find his inner self (or something), then spending a fortune in shrink bills on that child when the poor boy doesn't respond to her psychobabble.
As for Leith, well, he seems fake. He's this braw Scots warrior, but he speaks like a man from the 21st century. The Scottish accent disappears for the most of the time, surfacing only when he wants to whisper sexy compliments to wee lass Fortune. And for a man of the 1700's, he is too comfortable with the amenities in year 2000. As a result, he rings hollow as a realistic character.
If women are so lovey-dovey in the future, then why do they give themselves not names but numerical identification codes like Four-Two-N? If we are to perpetuate the stereotype of woman as the Ultimate Source of Maternal Warmth (not that I dispute that entirely, but I'm against silly stereotyping, and this sort of Womyn-as-Virtue notions get on my nerves), why not perpetuate the notion that women are all Maternal Sources of Creativity as well? We can all have beautiful, flowery names by 2030.
Believe me, I wouldn't be ranting if the story is good and manages to involve me in the lead characters' antics. But when the story just leaves me bored, as if I'm a disinterested observer from a long distance away, I can't help picking on things. And when I do get on the soapbox, there's no stopping me.
And now, about that cloning thing in 2030...
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