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Gaudeamus by John Barnes
Review by Gayle Surrette
Tor Books Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 0765303299
Date: 01 November, 2004 List Price $24.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

Gaudeamus is not your usual science fiction book. First, the author is a major character in the book. In fact, the book is sort of an ?as told to? type of book. Travis Bismark, an old college friend who has kept in touch throughout the years, drops in for a visit and starts telling Barnes about a case he?s been working on.

Travis has been hired to find out who is leaking corporate secrets on a new top-secret transportation device being created at Xegon. Then things turn really weird. It seems there are Gaudeamus devices everywhere. There?s Xegon?s transporter device, a pill that is non-addicting but lets you have great sex and essentially mind-meld with your partner and any other person who has taken the drug, and there?s an internet cartoon. Most of the characters have a Beowolf cluster in their refrigerator and whenever someone turns a new Gaudeamus device on ? aliens show up and try to buy the planet from the inventor. Things get very confusing and the rest of the book is sort of a ?Keystone Kops? crossed with ?Buckaroo Bonzai? and ?Third Rock from the Sun?. The book scatters off in all directions and you find yourself reading just to find out what incredible plot turn is going to happen next. Everything is fairly clich? but it?s clich? with a fun wink and a twist.

For me I found that every now and then I?d be pulled out of the book by the character of John Barnes talking about being a science fiction writer. I couldn?t help but wonder if he really thinks about SF conventions like that, or the fans, or the genre. Every time I came upon some Barnes POV stuff I?d get jerked out of the story. At times, reading the book was like peeking into someone?s diary and wondering, would I get caught.

Gaudeamus is predictable and has plot holes you could drive a truck through. But it is roaring good fun to read if you?re the kind of reader who can suspend belief and just enjoy yourself.

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