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For eight years, I wondered what was going through Laura Bush’s head. All those speeches, all those political events, fundraisers and campaign stops and banquets and–it’s enough to make your head spin. Especially when your job is to stand beside the president, smile, and be perfect. Political stripes aside, Laura Bush was the prototypical political wife in that tedious tradition.
And in “Felix Culpa,” third in B.C. Young’s Miscorrection series, that traditions extends far into the future (sorry Michelle). Of course, far into the future the president’s wife needs a rictus of galactic proportions to satisfy her husband’s constituents… on six planets.
Poor, dear Adalyn, First Lady of the universe.
Hers is the dominant perspective in Miscorrection: Felix Culpa. Through the framework of not-just-another tedious press interview, readers learn about Adalyn’s past, as well as gain insight into some of the events and characters we last saw in “Sunrise” and “Arrogation.” (Recall: Karhath terrorists and their internal power struggles, strange blue lightning snatching people up into thin air, and a boy and his grandfather mysteriously saved by a suicide bomber from one of a series of Karhath attacks.) I don’t want to give too much away, but I will say that I had an “ah-ha!” moment when I learned the president’s name.
In Miscorrection: Felix Culpa threads are weaving together, suspense is really starting to build, and Young’s writing style has reached a new level of self-confidence. Last time I reviewed Miscorrection, I commented that Young had “clean, uncluttered first-person prose.” Ditto that with “Felix Culpa,” but add this soundbite: Let’s wipe the word “amateur” right off the table. “Amateur” writers can come off sounding stilted and stiff in their description and dialogue (characters in the 20th-odd century probably aren’t going to sound like Shakespeare, or robots for that matter), but this time the voice of our narrator Adalyn cuts through the loud and clear. Perfect grammar and mechanics is commendable; comfort with colloquialisms is capital.
Wedded to style is story (isn’t that what people say about presidential candidates–style or substance?), and Felix Culpa has both. B. C. Young, a J.J. Abrams fan–as all science fiction writers and reviewers must be, according to the Intergalactic SF Code of Ethics–continues to build an intricate plot structure (not to mention the tiny LOST reference for fellow travelers at location 307) in his series. The political stakes are high, the personal relationships are complicated, and the metaphysical implications are about as classic SF as you can get. That’s right: I’m talking about Fate with a capital F.
Felix Culpa, for those who have not taken Others 101 and thus do not know their Latin (for shame, people), means “happy fault.” Traditionally, the term has been used in Christian theology in relation to the supposed “Fall” of Adam–it sucked for Adam and Eve, sure, but because it brought sin into the world God had to send Jesus to save us, thus making the fault a blessed one with a happy ending (insofar as public execution is a happy ending). Hallelujah! Of course you don’t have to be Thomas Aquinas to bandy about the term. Laypeople use “felix culpa” to indicate any error or mistake that happened to have happy circumstances. All’s well that ends well, or whatever.
Miscorrection: Felix Culpa is all about that sort of happenstance. When a gushing female reporter asks First lady Adalyn how she met her husband, and how they fell in love, the tale begins with as simple an event as a first day of school that happened to turn into a murdering spree and terrifying hostage situation. In which Adalyn and [insert future president’s name here] were thrown together. Mix in a potentially psychic history teacher and we have a classic case of Coincidence or Fate?
I guess we’ll have to wait for part four to find out.
Recommendation: B.C. Young quoted Orson Scott Card (see Ender’s Gameee) as an influence on his philosophy of writing. Three times removed, I’ll quote the quoted quote here:
“My goal was that the reader wouldn’t have to be trained in literature or even science fiction to receive the tale in its purest form … a great many writers have based their entire careers on the premise that anything the general public can understand without mediation is worthless drivel.”
And that’s plainly not true. Let’s call it the Democratization of Science Fiction: this series is accessible to anyone, and that’s exactly who I recommend it for.
Reading time: 45 minutes, tops. As has been said before–reading a good short story serial is like watching a good tv series. Especially when you can spot the LOST reference at location 370.
Miscorrection: Felix Culpa is available as an ebook on Amazon for $0.09. I’d say grab it off the shelf before someone else does, but the magic of ebooks is that there’s always enough to go around. Just be sure to check out Sunrise and Arrogation first.
Note: If you buy the book (and really, I do hope so), you’ll find a little reference to the Scattering’s first review of the series as a motivating force in the completion of part three. I was astonished, gaping at the screen of my Kindle and laughing incredulously. Well I meant every word, and I still mean every word, but don’t worry–I can still say mean things. Even after reading that forward, if the story had been dreadful, I’d have said so here