Griffin’s Egg • 1991 • Hard SF novella by Michael Swanwick

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Synopsis: The story follows Gunther, an industrial worker on the Moon delivering goods to assembly plants. Initially a reprimanded slacker, he gets into several dangerous situations like unexpected Solar flares, or robots out of control in a factory, and really exceeded expectations.

Through his adventures, an ice queen lady crosses his way several times, leading to an unexpected romance. 

When a thermonuclear World War starts on Earth, people on the Moon find their way back cut, their provisioning stopped, and violence swaps over to the Moon. 

Gunther finds his role as the right side of his love interest who steps in as a beneficial dictator. They need to order logistics, control the upcoming violence, and solve a mystery: a terrorist managed to initiate a mind controlling device turning half of the people in the station into zombies. 

Review: Swanwick is one of my favorite authors, often excelling in short stories – check out for example his collection “The Dog said Bow-How” (review here).

This novella is, in contrast to its fantasy oriented title, a Hard SF story set in the mid-term future. It ranges from fleshy Space Opera to posthumanism involving radical radical neuroengineers, and can count as a prequel to his novel Vacuum Flowers

Readers who prefer an action-heavy ride with many loops will be highly entertained by this page turner. It feels like a classical SF stories from Heinlein or Clarke but with a (relatively, as written in the 1990s) modern touch. 

Gunther is a highly relatable protagonist, starting out as a cool slacker, falling in love, solving problems, getting into a ethically difficult situations, and turning slowly to a hero. Swanwick draws not only Gunther in multiple colors, but also his sidekicks and opponents are never black and white only. 

The tension arc has some problems, though. Some scenes are only weakly connected to the main plot and felt like yet-another-fragment for an extended novel. Also, there were so many twists and tension bumps, that the story’s final resolution didn’t come to full fruition and didn’t feel like a dramatic peak anymore. In other words: the novella couldn’t decide if it wanted to be an open-ended short story or a closed novel. 

Recommended for fans of Space Operas who like a small bit of romance, for Silver Age SF fans, and also for those who want to read a comment about the dangers of posthuman development.

Meta: isfdb. I’ve read it it in the anthology Best of the Best Vol.2.

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8 Responses to Griffin’s Egg • 1991 • Hard SF novella by Michael Swanwick

  1. pdtillman says:

    “Silver Age SF fans” Heh. Those of us with silver hair?
    My take on this early Swanwick classic:
    Wow, 1991. My, how time flies. I’m certainly grateful that the world’s tribulations have not (so far) included schizomimetic war gases!

    E-seals: Yes, you almost certainly stopped here:
    It’s been a busy year there — for seals and tourists! The colony continues to grow. The video I sent you was shot maybe 3 miles N of the main rookery.
    If you’ve read ENDURANCE, the classic account of the Shackelton Antartctic expedition 150 years (or so) ago — the party was saved from starvation by shooting and eating a large Southern E-seal on whatever godforsaken island they wintered on, while Sir Ernest went on to the whaling station on X Island to arrange a rescue ship for his party. Amazing story.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Andreas says:

      Those seals don’t look appealing as part of my dinner with all their happy wobbling 😁
      I saw your review and am happy that you liked it even better than me. Maybe the appeal comes exactly from the retro style.

      Silver Age is a common term for a period following a Golden Age, in this case after the Campbell era 38-45.
      Many lovers of that post-WWII years have also grey hair (as do I). But I wouldn’t exclude younger folks who stay appealed to these years before the advent of New Wave.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. pdtillman says:

    “Silver Age! Heh. What came after? Bronze Age?? 😇

    Anyway, sorry we missed connecting on your Big Sur jaunt. But understand the exhaustion @journey’s end, & anyway I don’t think we were that well ‘acquainted’ by then. Glad it was a good trip!
    My European dream-trip: Spain & Portugal! I haven’t been to Spain since around 1966!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Andreas says:

      No, we weren’t connected then.

      I‘ve never been to Portugal. But Spain: Barcelona and the Canaries (Tenerife mostly). Wonderful places!

      Liked by 1 person

      • pdtillman says:

        Canaries do look great in photos. I know you Germans love your winter Sun!
        Having spent a long-ago winter in Ireland, I can see why. But the German girls (unlike the Irish, at least then) like to get an all-over tan! Great ogling! Though they do tend to be bit, er, top-heavy for my taste… 😇

        I’ve never been to Portugal, either, But my eldest sister went a year or two and had a great time. And the Basque country looks great (if gray) in photos.
        Then there’s Morocco! My wife went in her student days & loved it. She slept on the beach — until some jerk stole her sleeping bag! Long before we met. She was on her way to Israel. Which my same sister also liked a lot. I love the desert (in winter!)
        Wonderful world, as you say. C’mon, vaccine!

        Liked by 1 person

        • Andreas says:

          Winter sun is different, I‘ve got that today: freezing cold and sunny, that’s a lovely stroll. Some like it even more when skiing in the Alps.
          But you’re right, I like the warmth in winter, been last year in Florida around this time.
          I wasn’t in Morocco, but in Tunisia for a vacation. Made a trip to the different deserts and visited the Star Wars site of Tatooine.

          Liked by 1 person

  3. pdtillman says:

    The Roman ruins in Tunisia look VERY appealing. But the LONG ride in a virus-filled Al-tube doesn’t. Even post-COVID, the airlines have made economy air travel so uncomfortable, I don’t know if I will ever resume it. For sure we can’t afford the more comfortable seats up front! Bah. When I was young, who cared?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I am planning to read the Best of Michael Swanwick collection and this one is also in there!

    Liked by 1 person

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