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Putting Up Roots: A Jupiter Novel™
Charles Sheffield
Tor Books, 256 pages

Putting Up Roots
Charles Sheffield
Charles Sheffield has written a vast quantity of terrific SF. It includes Sight of Proteus (1978), Between the Strokes of Night (1985), The Ganymede Club (1995), The Mind Pool (1993) (aka The Nimrod Hunt), Trader's World (1988) and with David Bischoff, The Selkie (1982).

Sample Chapter
Sheffield Bibliography
Review: Higher Education: A Jupiter Novel™
Review: The Billion Dollar Boy: A Jupiter Novel™

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Thomas Myer

So there I am, stumbling around after a week of post-modern cop shows, a rather nasty nonlinear argument on a chat board, and a zero-attention-span film rendering of James' The Portrait of a Lady, which unfortunately lived up to its print antecedent all too well, Nicole Kidman or no freakin' Nicole Kidman.

Yeah, I was really hurting.

I stumble over to my mailbox, and I see that my package from SF Site has arrived. And nestled in this package is the new Charles Sheffield novel, Putting Up Roots. Not only new, as in, hot off the press, but new to me, for this is to be my first Sheffieldian experience.

Here's my first cat-swing impression: the ayatollahs of SF buttlock are gonna hate this book. (You know who you are!)

And here's why. Sheffield could give two damns about what passes for science fiction these days. He's interested in exactly these things:
A character
in a rich context,
with a problem,
determined to solve the problem.

That's it. No churlish screeds. No waxing preposterous. No techno-sadistic fluff. Sheffield will not be some old broken-down huckster on Politically Incorrect, pissed off at the world because his predictions didn't come through. Putting Up Roots is heavy-duty G.I. Joe story, coming right at ya, characters rising to the occasion in a great adventurous coming-of-age story (what would make Faulkner weep).

Wow. If you think for a minute that I'm full of it, just try to think of the number of books that just give you a great story and great characters, that doesn't fall into the following extremes:
ineluctable modality of suckness (read The Portrait of a Lady)
incredible body-and-boobs count (read anything with Mack Bolan on the cover)

There aren't that many, right?

Sheffield not only writes good characters, he writes good adolescent characters -- people who are in the middle of a vast, terrifying, pimply transition, one that they are going to try to live through. I admire this talent in Sheffield, because I remember more the teenage years of pain and degradation (the music, the clothes, the 'tude of the early 80's) than I do the banal wasteland of my early twenties. And for those of you who read good books in order to learn how to write them, check out how Sheffield writes from the viewpoint of a teenager without transmitting or inserting overly adult sensibilities.

I am not worthy!

On a more serious note, I deeply appreciated the portrayal of Dawn, a severely autistic but singularly gifted character -- I grew up with a severely autistic brother, and Sheffield draws a portrait of her as only a confused, bifurcated, and loving sibling could.

Run out and get it!

Copyright © 1997 by Thomas Myer

Thomas Myer takes great pleasure in editing TV commentators during crisis broadcasts, growing weeds in his garden, and waking at five a.m. to heap insults on his neighbor's cat.

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