Had it not won the Nebula and Hugo awards, I would never take the time to offer comments about a read I didn't much enjoy, but as it stands, I wonder what the Nebula and Hugo folks were thinking when awarding this piece an award as the best novella in 1994 and 1995, respectectivly. This is not a good book, short, long or otherwise.
A clever and interesting title, but the book is a simplistic and morally wan exploration of the human condition and character. The characters are stupid and brutish, the scenes each formed from some representative object, into a tableau of human history, in its entirety, is appropriately critical, but neither artfully rendered, or insightful beyond the pedestrian.
The plot is driven by the stupidity and unscrupulous behavior of its humans, and a truly banal group of investigatory aliens who respond to human behavior with only novelty and incredulity, as if the nature and history of a race that has, in this fictional universe, ruled wide areas, with much strength, go wholly unknown.
The points made in this novella are all fair, and I would never question them on their own merits. They only lack scope and imagination one likes to see in the genre. In the plainest, there is nothing new here, in terms of character, or story. It's fine to portray the race of human narcissistic brutes, but we're not nearly so stupid as Mr. Resnick depicts in this awful novella.
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