Crazy Hugo Project: Julian Comstock: a story of 22nd-century America


The Little Kitty does not think this book bears the Dominion stamp of approval.

Here’s my penultimate Hugo novel nominee read and done a tad later than I had scheduled it to be. To be fair, the book is 660 some pages and while I *could* read 660 some pages in a week I’d probably have to dedicatedly read every break, every lunch and every evening I didn’t have a standing obligation in order to finish at the same rate I’ve been reading the other Hugo novel nominees. I like to lounge a bit and there’s the off Warcraft nights and sometimes we visit friends and the dishes are always in need of attention and I really should water my gardens more than I do so I budgeted two weeks for 660 some pages. After all, one of those two weeks was Origins week and that’s a 3 plus car trip down and back.

Guess how many pages I read the whole trip? I think I was lucky if I even cracked the cover. Of course if I hadn’t taken the book down I would have wound up with all sorts of idle time and wishing I had grabbed the book. You just can’t win. Anyhow…

Julian Comstock (blah blah subtitle) is about the quest of one man to change the society of an America that has seen the oil peek, rioted through it, suffered an infertility plague and has given up the technology of the ‘Seculars’ in favor of the simpler times of steam, coal and fledgling electricity. Unfortunately, the society is fairly well controlled by the ‘Dominion’ (which supports all forms of authorized Christianity) and the feudalish system of indenture ship.

Julian has some formidable opposition though, including his homicidal paranoid uncle, President Deklan (celebrating his 4th or 5th term in the hereditary position) and the Dominion, both of whose views Julian is at odds with. Thus, he lights out in the middle of the night with his mentor Sam and best friend and aspiring writer Adam, for safer lands away from the direct influence of his uncle. Unfortunately, the trio runs smack dab into the draft and is sent to Labrador to help liberate the land from the Dutch. All three survive the army, Julian coming out on top as command material, and are discharged having served their term. Unbeknownst to them, the war correspondent who has been “mentoring” Adam and his fledgling writing (the subject being the boy hero “Captain Commongold”) has actually been stealing the stories and selling them to the paper. By the time the trio gets back to New York City (Julian’s home town) Captain Commongold is popularly famous and is received with pomp and circumstance. Everyone is surprised when it turns out that Captain Commongold is the President’s nephew Julian Comstock.

Events go steadily worse as President Comstock “honors” Julian with another Army stint and engineers a situation in which Julian will nobly parish. Unfortunately, Adam, who has gotten a writing job at the papers has been keeping up with the events and the paper has been publishing them. The American Public really like Julian and the President isn’t that deviously clever about hiding his plans to martyr Julian. No sir, they don’t like it.

This is an odd story in that it’s a complete work, start to finish. I can’t imagine where there would be a sequel and in some cases, there can’t be for a few characters. I’m not sure a story in the same setting would even be necessary although a lot of plans that were put in motion were long range beyond the scope of the book (which chronicles Julian’s life). As far as the book’s Hugo potential goes, I’d say that it’s a good post societal crash story and a nice view of religion gone wrong. Why do we separate church and state and limit the term of presidency? Julian Comstock (blah blah subtitle) handles that very well. The titular character is also an interesting sort in that he doesn’t want to wield power, like that of the presidency (although he is quite comfortable with wielding his power as the ruling class of monied people), but when he does get put in a command situation he reacts realistically. Sure, some power goes to his head but he also makes some good come out of it. I think more good that bad happens but I also think that the character is perhaps a bit premature in his ideas and implementation of his wants and desires. Julian consistently steps on a lot of toes throughout the story and that aspect of his personality is never really tempered.

I think that I am going to place Julian Comstock after Wake in my Hugo listing solely because I liked the story in Wake just a touch better. I like a story about trying to wrest free of the evils of a post crash gritty world but I like the story of discovery a new entity better. It’s just my preference as both books are really well written and a good read. True, Wake is an obvious set up for a series, which makes me a bit Mrrr, but what can I say. The subject matter struck more of a chord when I was reading about discovering web entities.

HUGO SCORE:

1. Boneshaker.
2. Wake.
3. Julian Comstock.
3.5. The City & The City.
5. ?
6. Palimpsest


2009: We did not garnish with cilantro because cilantro is the Antichrist.

2008: And then Sunday was a giant waste of fun Warcrafting. TheEnd.

2007: I may have even gloated, although it was a short lived gloat since part of my gloating involved Herschel. That’ll put a damper on any festivity right quick.

2006: I am going to have to go to war with the stoopid bush/weed tree fiasco which we thought we might have professionally pulled but it turns out that we are not. Don’t ask, at least I get to do some plant massacring.

2005: Right! I have a small skirmish with the Horde to contend with and then it’s cherry washin’ time.

2004: Whittier, where the snow is still knee high by the 4th of July.

2003: How am I supposed to eat my soup with a clam in its calm housing looking at me from out of my Miso?

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