The Big Time
Author: Fritz Leiber
Release Date:March 1958
The plot of this book sounds awesome (two factions battling through time, the snakes and the spiders, each group made up of humans and aliens pulled from different time streams!) but the actual plot is very different though nearly as interesting sounding (a group is stuck in a locked room with a ticking time bomb and possible traitors in their midst!). BUT, the story that is told about these two plots is done from the perspective of an “entertainer,” in the war named Greta whose role is essentially part prostitute, part nurse as she hangs out at the brothel and observed customers and coworkers bicker over trivial matters.
The character of Greta is almost entirely reactionary, with the dialogue and motivations of a secretary in a tv show set in the 1950’s that’s not “Mad Men.” The supporting cast was equally bland. Nearly halfway through the book a character named Bruce tried to ask why they were fighting this war and it was remarkable how much more interesting that page or two was than the rest of the story. Of course that discussion was quickly shelved. The rest of the characters can be told apart by the following method: do they speak in an annoying to read Shakespeare-inferior dialect? are they an octopus? are they narrating the book? Beyond that, your guess is as good as mine on differentiating the characters.
I read a lot of Heinlein, and this is the type of story he would have made great. “Double Star” was similarly set in a crazy scifi setting but told a simple human story. The difference is that Heinlein’s book is full of fun anecdotes and had a narrator that earns your admiration. I enjoyed the concepts of this book but the execution was a total miss.