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Extra Innings
Bruce E. Spitzer
Bear Hill Media, 435 pages

Extra Innings
Bruce E. Spitzer
Bruce E. Spitzer is a public relations executive, magazine editor and columnist. His writing has won awards from the New England Press Association, the International Association of Business Communicators and the Publicity Club of Boston. He is a graduate of Boston University and Rutgers and lives in the Boston area with his family.

Extra Innings Website
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A review by Greg L. Johnson

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Fenway Park is turned into an island, robot pitchers are throwing 120 mile per hour fastballs to juiced up hitters, and enough advances in medical technology can revive the frozen remains of an individual from the Twentieth Century. That's the set-up for Bruce E. Spitzer's first novel, and yes, he's a Red Sox fan. And if you haven't figured it out yet, that means the man being revived is none other than Ted Williams, arguably the greatest hitter of all time.

Actually, it's only Ted's head that has survived. The body was too far gone, so Ted was grafted onto the body of a young, recently deceased, professional tennis player. As Extra Innings begins, Ted is re-gaining consciousness. Soon, he's back on his feet, and discovering that the world into which he's been revived has changed, as has the game that he loved.

There's a solid tradition of combining fantasy with baseball, W. P. Kinsella's Shoeless Joe, the basis for Field of Dreams, and The Iowa Baseball Confederacy, are two good examples among many. The combination of baseball and science fiction has always been more problematic, novels like Michael Bishop's Brittle Innings and stories like Kim Stanley Robinson's "Arthur Sternbach Brings The Curveball To Mars" that get both the baseball and the science fiction elements right are few and far between.

Which brings us to the question of just what kind of novel Extra Innings is. The science fiction elements are up-front, and Spitzer does a nice job of not backing down from some of the more dramatic effects of global warming in the not so distant future. There's also some consideration as to how the game of baseball might change, robot pitchers recall Frederick Pohl's "The Celebrated No-Hit Inning," and Ted's disapproval of the extensive use of steroids runs through the book. What's lacking from a science fictional viewpoint is any sense that changes in the world around them have affected the way people live. Corporate and political structures remain in place, social relationships proceed as if little or nothing has changed. Even more striking is the ease with which Ted adapts to a new body, there are no internal conflicts of the I Will Fear No Evil variety.

What Extra Innings really does is attempt to use the trappings of science fiction and the character of a remarkable baseball player to tell a story of personal redemption. The writing is breezy and straight-forward, Ted Williams is true to the man and player that a generation of baseball fans revered. The problem with Extra Innings is that it refuses to stay in focus, the story line flits from the science fiction of reviving the frozen dead to the romance of a new life and relationships to a struggle with how the game's changed to a call to duty and finally lands in territory usually inhabited by films like Heaven Can Wait.

It might have all worked better if Extra Innings had stayed true to its best quality, the character of Ted Williams, his relationship with baseball, and quest to re-master and redeem the game that he loves. That might have elevated Extra Innings to the level of a novel like Shoeless Joe, instead we have a light-hearted entertainment that's going to be read for the most part by Boston Red Sox fans with a romantic streak, and the desire to see a world where no matter what, baseball and Ted Williams remain.

Copyright © 2012 by Greg L. Johnson

Reviewer Greg L Johnson is happy that robots aren't pitching at his friendly neighborhood ballpark. Greg's reviews have appeared in publications ranging from The Minneapolis Star-Tribune to the The New York Review of Science Fiction.


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