(and Zombies of the Gene Pool)

Sharyn McCrumb is best known for the Ballad Novels, historical Appalacian stories that touch on the folkloric and mythic, and the Elizabeth MacPherson Novels, mysteries that involve an amateur detective. She won the Edgar Award back in 1988, however, for a tongue-in-check mystery set at an SF convention. Bimbos of the Death Sun retains a significant following, as does its 1992 sequel, Zombies of the Gene Pool. Fen have had mixed reactions—but these twisted tales make for amusing summer reading.

Title: Bimbos of the Death Sun
Author: Sharyn McCrumb

First published in February 1988
ISBN: 0345483022
ISBN-13: 978-0-345-48302-7

Available from Amazon.uk, Amazon.com, Amazon.ca, and as a kindle.

Premise:

James O. Mega, an engineer, wrote a hard SF novel that received a lurid title and cover, and became a success. He finds himself a guest at a local SF Con— a world he does not know at all— with his partner, Marion Farley, an English professor who has an affinity for the genre and some experience with the fans. When someone murders the Guest of Honor, an obnoxious, egoistical SF author, this unlikely pair find themselves pulled into the mystery.

High Points:

The novel has offended some SF fans but, honestly, as satire, Bimbos proves accurate enough, while remaining more-or-less accessible to other readers. McCrumb may not be a diehard SF fan, but she at least knows fandom, as it existed in the 1980s, before so much of it went online and into the mainstream.

The novel also ignited a minor fannish debate over the inspiration for Appin Dungannon, the hilariously self-absorbed, abusive fantasy author who dies and leaves a surfeit of suspects.

Low Point:

McCrumb aimed at creating a satiric portrait of a place and time; story seems an afterthought. The murder occurs halfway through the book, remains a secondary concern, and resolves in a forced manner.

The Scores:

Originality: 4/6 Bimbos may be the first mystery novel with this particular setting, though others have been written since.

Imagery: 5/6 Even early in her career, McCrumb was a strong writer.

Story: 4/6

Characterization: 4/6 Save for the protagonists, the characters are caricatures, created for humorous and satiric purposes. They are funny and familiar to anyone who has spent time in fandom, but they grow wearisome after awhile.

Emotional Response: 5/6 The book is consistently funny enough to be worth reading.

Editing: 5/6

Overall score: 5/6 The sequel, Zombies of the Gene Pool, features a more complex story that touches on, in a fictional but telling manner, the influences on SF and fandom from the late 1950s onward. It lacks the freshness of Bimbos, features a (potentially) more interesting setting, but its strengths and weaknesses are otherwise the same.

In total, Bimbos of the Death Sun receives 32/42