Here’s the 1994 review of Summer of Love by Faren Miller in Locus, the Magazine of the Science Fiction Field:

“[In] Lisa Mason’s Summer of Love, the intellect on display within these psychedelically packaged pages is clear-sighted, witty, and wise.

If you belong to the boomer generation, you’re already a traveler in time. The world of 1967 had 30-pound ‘calculating machines,’ AIDs-free sex, largely voluntary homelessness amid continuing postwar prosperity; hip was ‘groovy,’ unhip ‘square’ or ‘plastic.’ For those in the right place, musical legends could be seen onstage any night of the week, five bucks a show. In short, a lost and now increasingly alien time. But it was far from an edenic Golden Age, as Mason soon makes clear. When Starbright (nee Susan Bell) runs away from her uptight and increasingly dysfunctional family in Cleveland and hops on a plane to San Francisco in pursuit of the hippie dream, she is engulfed in a scene mingling innocence and squalor, idealists and hustlers, joy and pain in equal measure.

Everyone who lived through those days, whether at their cultural epicenters or far on the sidelines, can look back with the benefit of 27 years’ hindsight. But young Chiron Cat’s Eye in Draco has a much farther way to go, in the eyeblink of near-instantaneous transport of the “ME3 Event” taking him from the San Francisco of the 25th century to the city chaotically celebrating the advent of the Summer of Love on Solstice Day, 1967. Chi is armed with centuries of perspective on the mess humanity was already making of its home planet: it will take all those centuries just to clean up after the profligate Industrial Age and advance a few cautious steps forward, into experiments with terraforming Mars and using a still not completely understood higher physics for a venture back in time. His armament also includes an array of ‘nutribeads’ and ‘prophylac’ wraps designed to shield him from the germ-crawling horrors of the past. Viewed from any standpoint but his own, he’s a slumming young aristocrat, absurdly finicky, unaccountably grave, and strange enough to be ‘far out’ yet not quite hip. He’s also a committed feminist, to the bemusement of most folk in that benighted year of ’67.

The plot element that brings Chi to the past, in search of Starbright, has that somewhat melodramatic air shared by most science-fiction notions-of-convenience, even in hard SF. Starbright is the most likely candidate for being an ‘Axis’ of catastrophic change in the ‘hot dim spot’ of 1967—a time whose archival remnants have begun to degrade in some bizarre space/time software glitch involving sinister antimatter doubles from an alternate universe and . . . well, even SF’s old master used such gimmicks at need.

However, the science fictional heart of this novel – its sharp intelligence – doesn’t need to rely on gimmickry. Cybernetics, sociology, ecology, and speculative physics all get their due in an atmosphere of mental exhilaration far removed from the Haight’s druggy ambience. Starbright herself is a bright girl, a one-time high school science whiz with a flair for mathematics that will help her calculate the arithmetic behind a San Francisco drug deal, if not the dangers of having anything to do with it. Chi, of course, has the brains to use his camouflaged future-tech with a good understanding of the principles behind it.

So, science is grounding as well as plot mechanism here. Well and good. But the wisdom of this book, along with its sparklings of wit, have a more immediate human source in a character more pivotal than any transtemporal Axis. That character is Ruby A. Maverick, proprietor of the Mystic Eye herbal/cosmic bookstore. Strong-willed businesswoman, sadder and wiser survivor of the Beat experiment, mixed-race black/Native America and ‘southern cream,’ she is a formidable woman even in her rare moments of vulnerability, and not wet-behind-the-ears redheaded kid, not even a futuristic ‘Man from Mars,’ stands a chance of besting her. When Chi and Starbright both end up in her orbit, the byplay is delicious – and we see just how much a boy from the future can learn about himself and his times, from this woman of the past.

Summer of Love offers a whole array of beautifully portrayed characters along the spectrum between outright heroism and villainy. It turns a clear eye on a time and place whose own inhabitants experienced with blinkers on, whether these consisted of youthful self-absorption, hard-grained bigotry, or a haze of drugs. And it looks ahead, to a future whose relative wonders derive more from hard work, sacrifice, and a painfully achieved maturity than from the whiz-bang baubles of limitless high technology.

Not what you expected from a book with flowers in its hair? Well, make no mistake, this is a remarkable second novel from another in the sudden array of talented, new, coincidentally female SF writers who seem ready to provide their own definition of a Golden Age for our field.”

So there you have it, my friends. The Philip K Dick Award Storybundle includes Aestival Tide by Elizabeth Hand (PKD Finalist), Life by Gwyneth Jones (PKD Winner), The Cipher by Kathe Koja (PKD Finalist), Points of Departure by Pat Murphy (PKD Winner), Dark Seeker by K. W. Jeter (PKD Finalist), Summer of Love by Lisa Mason (PKD Finalist), Frontera by Lewis Shiner (PKD Finalist), Acts of Conscience by William Barton (PKD Special Citation), Maximum Ice by Kay Kenyon (PKD Finalist), Knight Moves by Walter Jon Williams (PKD Finalist), and Reclamation by Sarah Zettel (PKD Finalist).

The Philip K Dick Award Storybundle runs only until October 15. Once it’s gone, it’s gone! So you must act now and download yours today at http://storybundle.com/pkdaward and enjoy world-class, award-winning reading right now and into the holidays.

Advertisements