We Open on Venus by Christopher Stasheff
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This is the second volume of Stasheff's Starship Troupers - actors in space! - and it is just as enjoyable as the first, though the author's particular style does show up more distinctly. (So I won't belabor the point about Stasheff's tendency to have his characters speak in soapbox / oratory fashion.) It picks up directly where A Company of Stars leaves off, with the actors blasting into space an instant behind a restraining order and off to the dubiously beautiful shores of New Venus. There, they encounter some unanticipated problems with performing, and are forced to putting on that most cursed of productions: Macbeth.
I love the rehearsal scenes in this book. They're a lot of fun, providing just enough context for the reader not conversant with the play (I did read it once, but I can't say as it made an impression on me; I'm more for Shakespeare's comedies) without getting bogged down in it. The interactions of the actors continues to entertain. They are still their archetypal selves, with occasional flashes of variation showing through. Charles Publican remains an enigma, an outsider in this band of insiders.
One thing I noticed rather starkly is the extensive infodump on the conditions of New Venus. Now, this is rather entertainingly done, and it has a definite purpose in the plot, but after a while, it becomes very obvious. It's something I think that was perfectly acceptable when this book was printed, and probably would have encountered editorial resistance now.
My only other complaint is that there was some duplication of events. There's a long sequence where the old hands instruct the younger actors about projecting so they can be heard without amplification ... and then when the play actually starts, everyone seems to forget about this and the series of events repeats itself. It's a great element, but it implies some amnesia.
Otherwise, events fall out like dominos, a believable cascade of obstruction, misfortune and timely assistance, all leading up to a wild and unnerving performance ... is Macbeth really cursed? And for whom?
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