walkitout (walkitout) wrote,

Alacrity Fitzhugh/Hobart Floyt series, Brian Daley: the Review, Sort of

I was really excited to see this mid-80s sf series become available on the kindle. I was somewhat less happy about the quality of the transfer (lots of "Royt" where "Floyt" was meant, especially in the first couple books), but am still happy to have them and optimistic that over time, the OCR errors will be fixed.

Sadly, the author is dead.


I have not reread the Han Solo series (altho I'm thinking about it) and I'm unconvinced I ever read the Coramonde books. Oddly, as I was about to write this book, I thought to myself, self, you used to post on Usenet under another name. Did you ever post anything about Brian Daley? Yes! Weirdly, I responded helpfully to a Where Is He Now query in 1994 -- with information I have long since forgotten.


Ah, back in the days when I had a sig file with randomly selected clever things, or, in this case, actually not that clever ("It's this or sheep"). I haven't read any of the Jack McKinney, either. I don't think, anyway.

So what has happened to me in the 20 ensuing years (well, almost 20 -- short by two months)? I got divorced, got a new job, got another new job, retired, etc. And along the way, I kind of quit reading for a while, in favor of hiking and travel and writing, and then I got married and had kids and read a lot of trashy romance and paranormal and, starting sort of last year shortly before ReaderCon, have lately been attempting to rekindle my love of sf. It's not going well.

But this -- wow, I still love this. I have some problems with it (why is everyone so young? Even the old guys aren't that old. Oh, wait ...), and the whole Strange Attractor thing, which made little enough sense at the time, makes even less now. I have to wonder, tho, if the reason I was so excited to see this pop up on the kindle is Hobart Floyt's genealogical obsession, which honestly, if you'd asked me to list genre fiction with genealogy in it, I would never have come up with (probably would have come up with Isaac Asimov's Foundation series before this one).


Alacrity Fitzhugh arrives on difficult to visit Earth and is mugged and accused of a crime he did not commit. Hobart Floyt is assaulted, and then told he has inherited something and must travel offworld to go retrieve it for the benefit of Earthservice.

Here is one of my problems: far-future Earth has become a backwater, and some sort of tyrannical bureaucracy brainwashes everyone on Earth to fear leaving and makes it incredibly difficult/dangerous for offworlders -- descendants of people from Earth -- to visit. It's kind of a boring cliche of the 1990s. Not sure why -- might have had something to do with the Cold War, because many of these books are about that tyranny being toppled and free exchange/trade resuming.

Fitzhugh is brainwashed to like Floyt and help him. Floyt is brainwashed to want to go get his inheritance. They depart and almost immediately start breaking rules and deviating from their itinerary.

Daley has a descriptive tic that works fantastically well for world-building. His descriptions -- nouns and adjectives -- use made-up words with no explanation. Names of jewels, decorative (fashion, architecture, etc.) styles, kinds of food, drink and drug just dropped out there with very minimal explanation. It's a Thing that mostly works, but it is definitely a Thing.

Obvs, there needs to be Plot, so they are being followed and attacked by people who want to make sure they never reach their destination.

Book 1: _Requiem for a Ruler of Worlds_ is getting to the destination, learning about the Inheritance and interacting with a Precursor artifact. They acquire allies and enemies, and Fitzhugh finds his True Love. We get to know both characters, they gain skills, they develop a bond and fight to modify their conditioning.

Book 2: _Jinx on a Terran Inheritance_ is getting to the Inheritance, with a detour into torture, slavery and genealogical research. (Love love love the bit where the squidlike creature is magnetized. That is hysterical.) There is a Conspiracy to explain what is going on galaxy-wide/on Earth, detailed proof of which is part of the Inheritance and which they then deliver to Earth, toppling the current ruling clique and generally opening things up. Fitzhugh is relieved of his conditioning along the way but discovers he liked Floyt and really likes actually having a friend, and they continue their partnership; I forget at which point Floyt is relieved of his conditioning -- it happens a little later but with roughly the same effect. Super weird that they find a bunch of art and artifacts supposedly a couple hundred years ago on Earth during the Srillan war. And they it probably gets destroyed for real. *sigh* Also, very cliched for 80s/90s sf.

Book 3: _Fall of the White Ship Avatar_ is leaving Earth a second time. This time around, Floyt's relationship with his wife is definitively over, freeing him up to Have a Good Time and Meet Someone New. They are even less well-prepared and funded this go-round, and the target of an even more vicious attack. Amusingly, they overcome their opponent by using his "knowledge" of them gained from reading pulp fiction about their special wtf, then they steal his spaceship. They drop in on a Wild West Show run by an imposter, are kidnapped by the person they were in search of, encounter another massive Precursor artifact (wow, genealogy), are saved once again by Floyt's Inheritor belt (this happens a lot) and then have to walk back out of a desert. There's a whole Antking like bit that's creepy as fuck -- but then, killer insects that swarm was another one of those 1980s/90s things. This time, largely because of total time spent together and the lack of sex, the woman prefers Floyt to Fitzhugh; go team Middle Age! Woot! Anyway, off to Spica for drinks with a 50 foot woman (not really, but kinda) and the expected showdown with the guy who has been tailing them since the beginning of the book, then off to the board meeting, which they win, but Fitzhugh loses.

Dincrist dies. But wow, it took a while.

The trilogy ends, appropriately, with the Dynamic Duo headed off in search of ... it's not totally clear. Floyt wants to track down Paloma. After that, basically, they're just looking for trouble (= Precursors) which is sort of the ideal non-ending for a trilogy which is simultaneously spoofing and updating pulp fiction of many eras, a pastiche, an homage, even a tribute to plot driven Fun Times.

Daley is not lazy with the worldbuilding -- quite the contrary. He does a good job of it and he doesn't bore the reader, either. One of the reasons I wanted to reread this series was the proteus (I misrecalled these as aureus), a small portable data storage and accessor and posssibly communications unit that current technology still can't replicate (in particular, Alacrity's version has a projector that is Super Cool). I wanted to calibrate my recollection of how amazingly awesome this thing was vs current tech and it is definitely awesome. However, it's not at all clear that Daley had any idea of a radio network to support data communication.

He is perfunctory with relationships. This is endemic in sf, and a large component of why I switched genres some time ago. His depiction of women in general feels very off, now, altho certainly not as offensive as some sf of the time.

Plot is _everything_. OMG. It is just one fucking puzzle, disaster, attack, run, recover and plan the next stupid idea, lather, rinse, repeat. Give it a rest. See comment about relationships in the previous chapter.

The conception of governance and how to dismantle corruption is particularly silly. Create a big scandal. Then a Miracle Occurs. Really?

And the What Rich and Powerful People Do is also kind of silly, altho the head of the church of the irreducible I thing was kind of funny in a sick sort of way.

I can see myself rereading this series again, altho not soon. I am really happy, once again, that e-books mean that wonderful stories like these can remain available to a wide audience; the economics of paper books made it hard for this kind of fiction to find its audience in space, never mind time.
Tags: book review, sf
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