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William's Book Blog

Mostly book reviews.  Very rarely I'll allow William Campbell Powell (author) to write a blog entry on publishing activity, but he's under orders to keep that stuff over on his Facebook page and on http://williamcampbellpowell.com

Currently reading

Fonda Lee
Fonda Lee
Anansi Boys
Neil Gaiman
Zombie Elementary: The Real Story
Howard Whitehouse
Progress: 99 %
The Angel's Game (The Cemetery of Forgotten Books, #2)
Carlos Ruiz Zafón
Progress: 6/504 pages
The Longest Week: What Really Happened During Jesus' Final Days
Nick Page
Progress: 43/310 pages

Giving Fair Coin a Fair Chance

Fair Coin - E. C. Myers

Following on from my recent excursion into the current Nebula crop, my wife asked me to choose some older Nebula winners for her to read.  Our choice was influenced by what was available either from the library or cheap on amazon, so this - the 2012 Andre Norton winner - was what came up.


So far the cover blurb has been pretty accurate - a coin that appears to grant every wish, but with side effects that are less desirable.  So far, the protag, Ephraim, is using his wishes to sort out his mother's broken life, and the variety of he-loves-her-but-she-loves-somebody-else teen relationships.  Hmm.


In that respect the plot is not much different to A Midsummer Night's Dream as Puck manipulates the affections of Demetrius, Lysander, Hermia and Helena.  We have Ephraim, Nathan (boys) but 3 girls (Mary, Shelley and Jena).  So one of the girls is going to be left out in the cold.


Shakespeare puts the moral responsibility for such choices with Oberon, deeming humans not capable of making wise choices.  In Fair Coin, Ephraim is choosing for himself, so his choices reflect a very human selfishness - me first, then my mate; the girls desires don't count much and they are the ones whose affections get manipulated.


So at about the 40% mark Ephraim has reached the danger point - "just one more change to put it all right, and then I'll stop" - where "all right" means "all right for him and for Nathan".  But Nathan also knows what's going on, and is probably going to step in, and he has even less moral self-discipline than Ephraim (who at least has reached the point where he's resolved not to change people).


To be worthy of that Nebula/Andre Norton this novel needs to move beyond teenage wish-fulfillment, and I think it's about to do so (if it doesn't, this'll be a DNF).  It needs to recognise the rights of each of the participants to free will and self determination.  For me, the obvious way to this is for Ephraim to journey to the point where he just says "put it all back the way it was before I started tinkering" and then destroy the One Ring by casting it into Mount Doom.  Sorry - wrong book.  I mean, of course, for Ephraim to put the Fair Coin beyond use.  Even if it means his mother reverts to a broken-down alcoholic.


I shall be intrigued to see if Myers has a better solution.  For it to be acceptable I demand that Ephraim's use of the Fair Coin be on a better moral basis than "I have the Coin, and I promise that I will use it carefully from now on for Justice and the American Way of Life", which is no better than typical flawed superhero morality.


Of course, this is all founded on the assumption that Ephraim isn't just choosing to wander across multiple strands of a multiverse until he finds one that suits him.  In which case, I'm expecting a make-the-best-of-where-you-fetch-up ending, akin to Robert Sheckley's Mindswap or Dimension of Miracles.


Let's see.