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Frank M. Robinson
Forge, 303 pages

Drive Communications
Frank M. Robinson
Frank M. Robinson has been writing and editing since 1950, when his story "The Maze" appeared in Astounding Science Fiction. His fiction output dropped during his years as an editor (1959-1973). After his stint at Playboy, he began writing techno-thrillers. For many years, he has been collecting pulps. A recent book, Pulp Culture: the Art of Fiction Magazines (written with Lawrence Davidson) is a pictorial history. His other novels include The Power (1956), The Glass Inferno (1974) and Blowout! (1987), the latter two with Thomas N. Scortia.

ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: The Dark Beyond the Stars

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Greg L. Johnson

Frank M. Robinson is a writer who is difficult to typecast. His novels have ranged from The Glass Inferno, which became that template for the cheesy Hollywood disaster movie known as The Towering Inferno, to The Power, which was made into a movie by George Pal, to The Dark Beyond the Stars, a classic multi-generation starship novel with a psychological twist.

Now comes Waiting, a near-future thriller based not on alien conspiracies, natural disasters, or exotic diseases as so many books, movies and TV shows seem to be these days, but instead on all too plausible speculations in anthropology and evolution. Waiting sets the tone immediately in the opening pages as Dr Lawrence Shea is stalked on his way to meet with friends in San Francisco.

For Artie Banks, a television newsman, it begins when he is called to the morgue to identify a body. Some suspicion falls on Artie and his friends until it becomes apparent that they are targets. Artie and Mitch Levin, who served together in Vietnam, start to investigate and quickly suspect that the problems have to do with an article Shea was preparing for Science magazine, about an autopsy performed on a body that didn't seem to be human. Homo yes, but not sapiens. The tension and danger grow as Artie and Mitch learn more about what is going on.

This is a very good book and a good example of its kind. The suspense and action are gripping and believable, and the basic premise is one that Michael Crichton or any of the other mainstream thriller writers would have loved to have thought up. Lucky for us, Frank M. Robinson got it instead. Robinson is a smoother writer than most in this category, and while the writing never gets in the way of telling the story, there are moments when the prose is quite stylish. A scene where Artie, believing he is sleep-walking, sees the world through his enemies' eyes is especially effective.

In addition to the prose quality, the ending of the novel helps raise Waiting above the level of the typical thriller. Faced with an extremely complex and daunting situation, Artie makes a decision that is highly debatable ethically yet completely in character. The ending also serves to reinforce the author's main point, that the greatest danger to our continued existence is ourselves. Waiting makes the point persuasively enough to leave you thinking that he's probably right.

Copyright © 1999 by Greg L. Johnson

For the perfect match of music and mood, reviewer Greg L. Johnson suggests listening to "Waiting" by the Suburbs right before reading Waiting by Frank M. Robinson. The 1982 12" single version will do nicely. His reviews also appear in the The New York Review of Science Fiction.

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