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Tillabooks: Will's Book Blog

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Streaking by Brian Stableford

Streaking by Brian Stableford. Hornsea, England: PS Publishing, 2006. ISBN: 1-904619-40-1

Apparently even the cover art on this book is original enough that it requires a separate copyright, credited on the verso of the title page to Vincent Chong. On the cover, which includes a collage of playing card images, the title is presented sort of like this: 5TREKING.

The kind of streaking referred to in the title has nothing to do with running around naked. Rather, it's the lucky kind. Our protagonist, Canny Kilcannon, soon to be 32nd Earl of Credesdale, has a family history of good luck. A streak, if you will. It dates back to the very first Earl, or even earlier, and there is a whole set of traditions, initially verbal, now written down, that go with the streak.

As an example, the streak is passed from father to son, and when one Kilcannon dies, and the next inherits the streak, the luck is at its lowest ebb, until the new Earl marries a local girl, and begets an heir. Then the streak resumes for both men. Canny is the first truly 20th century, modern, scientific man in the line, and he is naturally skeptical about the seemingly supernatural or superstitious aspects of the streak.

So when one of the most beautiful women in the world, an Asian supermodel comes into his life, and it turns out that she comes from a similar line of lucky individuals, only in her case, the streak is passed from mother to daughter, well, the possibilities are too intriguing to pass up. But things never turn out quite as a person imagines.

Stableford is not the first science fiction author to write about luck. I'm not sure this novel qualifies as science fiction, but then, I don't know exactly where else to assign it, either. I suppose the supernatural element could make it fantasy, but that's about the only fantastical element in it.

But back to the subject of luck in SciFi. Larry Niven's Ringworld involves a similar theme, although it is a subplot, a sideshow, not the main event there. In that story it turns out that an alien race, the Puppeteers as they're called, have been breeding the human race for luck. They manipulated human society to allow for a lottery, in which only those with luck, or those who are extremely wealthy, in itself, another kind of luck, are able to have more than 2 children. In this way, they hope to genetically select for lucky individuals. Once again, it doesn't quite work out the way they had intended, however!

I found the ending to Streaking less than entirely satisfactory, and with just a tad bit too much metaphysical speculation, and not enough simple explication of events. In other words, I was a little disappointed in how it came out. I'm not sure a better ending exists, but still, this is not the one I wanted, somehow. Nevertheless, recommended, especially for those who enjoy fiction with a philosophical bent.


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