Starship Troupers 4: The Unknown Guest

Review and discuss Christopher Stasheff's new short stories.
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Re: Starship Troupers 4: The Unknown Guest

Post by ariadne »

I was delighted to be able to find out some of what happened to the company after they left Citadel and to see Suzanne and Ramou resolve their relationship. I am assuming that comments and constructively intended criticism are still open as I have not found the book up for sale, and that the project is simply delayed, not abandoned, especially as I would like to be able to purchase this book. I have not sat down and done a line by line examination of the book to catch exactly where and what errors occur. To do it right would require spreadsheets and time, turning recreation into work. I thus offer my apologies that I have not pinpointed specific paragraphs where such might be useful, and hope that my comments will be helpful anyway. If I am wrong and the project has been abandoned, please let us know.

Ramou should know about blocking and not need it explained. He performed in the play and handled the extras on New Venus, where the term was used, and would surely have been explained if it were needed. He and the others have also been paid before, so I found the business about the ghost walking to be as disruptive to the plausibility of the story as it was informative and entertaining.

Suzanne had told Ramou “I’m all right, because you were there. Don’t ever go away, all right?” on Citadel, but was simply blowing him off before Corona. This doesn't make sense in terms of her stated character, and her behavior immediately prior to departure from Citadel. Some sort of explanation and/or transition is needed.

Harrison, the stowaway ghost seems very contradictory to me. He was attempting a power grab at Hamlet, but Ramou declares him to be on their side when he makes the puzzle circuit at the end. This confuses me as I have seen no real evidence of his friendliness (not killing them by disrupting their computers doesn't count. It's self-interest on Harrison's part), and had seen evidence of his malice on Corona.

Others have mentioned it, but I think it particularly important so I will too. Prudence appeared to vanish. As far as her participation in the book went, she might as well have stayed on Corona.

I was glad to see more of Winston (speculation- given the ratio of men to women on Wolmar, would they indulge in the gay-bashing experienced by Winston, or instead just be glad when other men weren't competition for those women?), but I missed the interpersonal interactions between the characters in a large group, possibly in part because we missed the rehearsals for St. George, a play less familiar than the Shakespeare, and less explained than the fictional Vagrants from Vega (which I found both interesting and entertaining. I was sorry not to see more of it). Marnie especially could have used more development of her less than poisonous nature, and Marty's being hung up on Prudence seems to have been dropped cold. Merlo's interactions with Ramou were less frequent than I expected too. Ramou's effectively Merlo's apprentice, but we rarely see him apprenticing in this book.

Ramou was hired as techie, but has been made into an actor for this book. I understand that he keeps getting drafted, but as he does not, allegedly, want to act, and is not described as doing do a more than adequate job on New Venus, why they are constantly drafting him (and for a significant amount of stage time) instead of Merlo, or having Suzanne, Lacey, or even Prudence take the role(s) should probably be explained.

The scene where Merlo blocks the stage combat for Hamlet doesn't ring true. When I compare it to the way the stage combat was handled on New Venus, it tells me that the way they handled the stage combat on New Venus was wrong. As _We Open on Venus_ is not subject to change, this is the one that would need to shift to make things fit.

I was pleased to have my guess that Charlie Publican and Charles T. Barman (aka Cholly) are one and the same confirmed. I did not, however, quite grasp how he wasn't simply hauled out of rehearsal (or assassinated right before he entered or right after he left) on Terra if he was a wanted man, or how he ended up tending bar on weekends for an alleged six years in NYC, when he was supposed to be a professor on Luna and/or on the run from assassins belonging to the LORDS Party (see Escape Velocity, Chapter One). This might be a place to explain.

I often had trouble telling whether Ramou or Horace was narrating in this volume. In previous books, I only had to stop and look to determine who the narrator was was occasionally, usually when I missed a scene break. In this one, it was frequent, especially in the last half of the book.

Also, I found more than the narrator confusing. I'm not sure whether characters were mislabeled, or whether there were fewer cues than I'm used to, (or if there was something else) but starting with the performance of Hamlet, and continuing through Wolmar, I often found keeping who was playing who, and doing what, straight to be difficult.

The strychnine tipped needle found in Charlie's costume on New Venus was never explained, and as it got Larry beat up by Ramou, it was pretty important. They handled Lacey as a spy, not as an attempted murderer, so I don't think her working for Rudders constitutes an implied explanation.

They were assuming the the Man in Grey was carrying word of their 'revolutionary' or 'illegal' activities ahead of them and tattling to local authorities about it. As he was working for Valdor, who had no interest in seeing them fail, he was found not guilty. Therefore, the question remains who did it? Lacey never does allocute as to the extent of her betrayal, just that Rudders promised her a role on Earth if she joined the company. What she was supposed to do, and what she actually did, once she was a member wasn't mentioned. Also, in my reading of _A Company of Stars_, Lacey was a member of the Company before Rudders switched from the music industry to theater, much less specifically targeted the Star Company, so her description of how he approached her simply does not work.

And speaking of Lacey, her volunteering to help Ramou with his parts for Hamlet doesn't fit with her as both saboteur, and her propensity for not helping without a clear and immediate benefit to herself. I know that it was explained as an attempt to ingratiate herself with the powers that be within the company, and a barb aimed as Suzanne (aka the competition), but when I combine that with Lacey as saboteur, it doesn't make sense. The powers that be of the company should only be of limited importance to her as she's thrown her lot in with Rudders rather thoroughly by this point. Maybe someone should ask why she helped Ramou while sabotaging the company?

I estimate the Company as having been in business for one year or less, not two by the time they arrived Wolmar (A week or so in NYC, One month to New Venus, one week on New Venus, One month plus to Citadel, one week on Citadel, Two and a half months minus to Corona, Two weeks on Corona, Transit to Wolmar: One month? Three months?, either way the total is much closer to one year than the two years mentioned by Horace when they voted on Lazaro). And speaking of voting on Lazaro, there should also have been some vote on Prudence, yes? At least whether they left her on Corona, or kept her with the company?

Tachyon comms don't exist. There is no FTL radio, that's (at least in part) why the I.D.E. eventually died. Shakler's bond and confirmation of engagement could potentially be handled by a message sent from New Venus (when they shipped of Publius Promo-- And speaking of Publius, what did they do with him after they landed on Corona? He left Citadel with them.) and delivered to Corona, a scheduled stop, if there were any ships actually going to Wolmar. However, I don't see where and how the Man in Grey's reports (from Corona) could have reached Valdor, and Valdor have reached Wolmar, before the company left Wolmar. Valdor's presence on Wolmar seems very much to be a deus ex machina. There was no reason for him to be there. He could not have learned that the reasons he had Marnie added to tour no longer applied as they only stopped applying at Corona, and as far as we know, Wolmar's presence on the itinerary was only finalized at Corona. A ship to Earth from Corona, and then from Earth to Wolmar should take much longer than a ship from Corona to Wolmar. And speaking of Earth to Wolmar, how did Lacey have a ship to take her off Wolmar? They weren't expected to be there, the Cotton Blossom was in space before Barry told the company where they were going next, and there's no way for a message to have gone out and fetched Lacey a ship before the rest of the company left.

Also, Marnie and Valdor got back together much to readily. She was poison and he wanted her light years away, they she's the love of his life and he wants her back? It gives me whiplash to contemplate the sudden about face. Even granting that Horace was only speculating about the relationship, something needs to explain how the speculation was false when Marnie's behavior substantiated it so well. Also, I can't imagine Valdor trusting reports from even the most reliable of observers. Given the way he reacted to Barry's initial proposal for the Star Company, I would expect him to want to make his own evaluation- all of which we missed seeing. Plus, Marnie's the sort to want to make him pay. Look at how she treated the customs agents in general and the lecture hall administrator on Citadel. Nicer she may be, but she was unbelievably nice and forgiving in her conversation with Valdor.

I will also note that they aren't limited to plays with only one female role. They have Grudy available for the draft, Prudence who wants to act and is, to all appearances, capable of handling minor roles, and if Suzanne could end up playing Donalbain on New Venus, Larry or Marty could certainly end up playing a woman if need be. Rehearsals need not stop or be limited to Didn't He Ramble (And how did Prudence react to a play set in a bordello I wonder?) between Wolmar and where ever they go next. I would love to know what they'll be working on during the trip. And why switched plays instead of giving Prudence Lacey's role in St. George.

I look forward to the final draft, should it ever become available. If it doesn't, I will treasure the rough draft, which though rough, is far superior to no book at all.
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Ortho the Frank
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Re: Starship Troupers 4: The Unknown Guest

Post by Ortho the Frank »

All this is very helpful information. I think Prudence was supposed to meet a rich boyfriend on Corona and stay behind, but Chris forgot to write that in (the Parkinson's influence is noticable in this rough draft). My sister Elea and I do plan to revise it and release it, but I imagine it will be at least a year or two before that happens. :( Sorry!
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