After reading this book, I almost wanted to find a pub to call home. That’s coming from someone who doesn’t drink or like crowded places, or bars and pubs for the matter. But somehow, Spider Robinson hid humanity in its best to Callahan’s Crosstime Saloon; I was like, yes, that’s humanity when they care, that’s humanity surviving when they have been kicked into their nuts and rejected. The ones who never got on with the program. At Callahan’s Crosstime Saloon, you are accepted as you are.
The book is a collection of short stories published previously in a magazine and three separate books. All the stories are independent as their own, but there’s a continuity in time and plot as they unfold. It’s a sci-fi book, but more interested in the psychological make-up of such a world where aliens and weirdness exist. All the stories are told from Jake’s first-person point of view, but they mainly handle the stranger stepping into the saloon and what their story is and how it relates to what is going on currently. The strangers are often in their lowest hour as they step amid the regulars, who are astonishingly accepting, kind, and sympathetic. A place where you can seek solace. A place we all want to go, thus making me want to find a pub like Callahan’s.
This is a highly male-centric story, where female visitors start to come more towards the middle of the book and take their place as regulars in a semi-meaningful way. But that’s okay, or at least it was for me. The target audience is male readers, and all the female characters symbolize hope. They are less jaded and more willing to act. Spider Robinson even jokes about this unbalance, and he doesn’t put a female character down. But, of course, there’s an imbalance in how they are portrayed: more emphasis on the figure. None of that is the gist of the book. What matters is the story the characters tell, what the reader can learn from them, and how to become more open, caring, and willing to help. That’s the message. We are in this shit together, and it’s up to us to make this world, our and others’ lives better.
The gender gap isn’t the only hiccup the book has. I could say something about the Jake-Spider Robinson conundrum, who is who, but I don’t care about that. Nor do I care about puns being an important feature. Or not all stories were equal. Or about the somewhat soppy and one-sided view of human issues and how they should be solved. You can disagree with them; I can semi-disagree with them and still enjoy the book because it’s more about the hope of belonging and people willing to do good by others than about some political issue or another. Oh yes, some statements made me frown, like the one about dismissing adoption, but that was the character speaking on their behalf.
A heart-warming book, which gives you hope that humanity isn’t all jaded. (A statement I disagree with in my darkest moments.)
Happy reading and have a lovely day ❤ Again, if you come across an alien life form, please say hello on my behalf and wish them good luck.