Here’s the review of Summer of Love by Faren Miller in Locus, the Magazine of the Science Fiction Field:
“[In] Lisa Mason’s Summer of Love, the intellect on display within these psychedelically packaged pages is clear-sighted, witty, and wise.
If you belong to the boomer generation, you’re already a traveler in time. The world of 1967 had 30-pound ‘calculating machines,’ AIDs-free sex, largely voluntary homelessness amid continuing postwar prosperity; hip was ‘groovy,’ unhip ‘square’ or ‘plastic.’ For those in the right place, musical legends could be seen onstage any night of the week, five bucks a show. In short, a lost and now increasingly alien time. But it was far from an edenic Golden Age, as Mason soon makes clear. When Starbright (nee Susan Bell) runs away from her uptight and increasingly dysfunctional family in Cleveland and hops on a plane to San Francisco in pursuit of the hippie dream, she is engulfed in a scene mingling innocence and squalor, idealists and hustlers, joy and pain in equal measure.
Everyone who lived through those days, whether at their cultural epicenters or far on the sidelines, can look back with the benefit of 27 years’ hindsight. But young Chiron Cat’s Eye in Draco has a much farther way to go, in the eyeblink of near-instantaneous transport of the ‘ME3 Event’ taking him from the San Francisco of the 25th century to the city chaotically celebrating the advent of the Summer of Love on Solstice Day, 1967. Chi is armed with centuries of perspective on the mess humanity was already making of its home planet: it will take all those centuries just to clean up after the profligate Industrial Age and advance a few cautious steps forward, into experiments with terraforming Mars and using a still not completely understood higher physics for a venture back in time. His armament also includes an array of ‘nutribeads’ and ‘prophylac’ wraps designed to shield him from the germ-crawling horrors of the past. Viewed from any standpoint but his own, he’s a slumming young aristocrat, absurdly finicky, unaccountably grave, and strange enough to be ‘far out’ yet not quite hip. He’s also a committed feminist, to the bemusement of most folk in that benighted year of ’67.
The plot element that brings Chi to the past, in search of Starbright, has that somewhat melodramatic air shared by most science-fiction notions-of-convenience, even in hard SF. Starbright is the most likely candidate for being an ‘Axis’ of catastrophic change in the ‘hot dim spot’ of 1967—a time whose archival remnants have begun to degrade in some bizarre space/time software glitch involving sinister antimatter doubles from an alternate universe and . . . well, even SF’s old master used such gimmicks at need.
However, the science fictional heart of this novel – its sharp intelligence – doesn’t need to rely on gimmickry. Cybernetics, sociology, ecology, and speculative physics all get their due in an atmosphere of mental exhilaration far removed from the Haight’s druggy ambience. Starbright herself is a bright girl, a one-time high school science whiz with a flair for mathematics that will help her calculate the arithmetic behind a San Francisco drug deal, if not the dangers of having anything to do with it. Chi, of course, has the brains to use his camouflaged future-tech with a good understanding of the principles behind it.
So, science is grounding as well as plot mechanism here. Well and good. But the wisdom of this book, along with its sparklings of wit, have a more immediate human source in a character more pivotal than any transtemporal Axis. That character is Ruby A. Maverick, proprietor of the Mystic Eye herbal/cosmic bookstore. Strong-willed businesswoman, sadder and wiser survivor of the Beat experiment, mixed-race black/Native America and ‘southern cream,’ she is a formidable woman even in her rare moments of vulnerability, and not wet-behind-the-ears redheaded kid, not even a futuristic ‘Man from Mars,’ stands a chance of besting her. When Chi and Starbright both end up in her orbit, the byplay is delicious – and we see just how much a boy from the future can learn about himself and his times, from this woman of the past.
Summer of Love offers a whole array of beautifully portrayed characters along the spectrum between outright heroism and villainy. It turns a clear eye on a time and place whose own inhabitants experienced with blinkers on, whether these consisted of youthful self-absorption, hard-grained bigotry, or a haze of drugs. And it looks ahead, to a future whose relative wonders derive more from hard work, sacrifice, and a painfully achieved maturity than from the whiz-bang baubles of limitless high technology.
Not what you expected from a book with flowers in its hair? Well, make no mistake, this is a remarkable second novel from another in the sudden array of talented, new, coincidentally female SF writers who seem ready to provide their own definition of a Golden Age for our field.”
Here’s a review posted on Facebook of Summer of Love by Lewis Shiner, the award-winning author of Frontera, Glimpses, and Black & White.
“I haven't kept up with science fiction for some years, so I didn't know about Lisa Mason's SUMMER OF LOVE until she approached me about the Philip K Dick Award Storybundle (http://storybundle.com/pkdaward). I was immediately intrigued because I am currently working on a huge mainstream novel about the sixties that includes a long section set in San Francisco in August of 1967, which I had researched in print, on the Internet, and on the ground with the help of music historian Richie Unterberger.
The book completely knocked me out. I recognized everything, from the geography of Golden Gate Park to the stores in the Haight to the historical figures like Digger honcho Emmett Grogan (thinly disguised as "Leo Gorgon") and biker Chocolate George (as himself). The Dead and the Airplane and Janis are all here--there's even a historically accurate cameo by George Harrison. The fictional characters ring true, and they cover the spectrum from the childlike to the predatory. You can smell the pot smoke and patchouli and Loveburgers.
What elevates the book to greatness, though, is its heart and its moral center. Mason somehow captures the playfulness and guilelessness of the era without once turning away from the squalor and violence and hypocrisy. She has no sympathy for the narcissism of the Diggers, the sexism of the gurus, the foggy incompetence of the constantly stoned--and nothing BUT sympathy for the believers, the innocents, the ordinary folks trying to get by from day to day.
It is a tribute to Mason's courage that, after showing us rape, addiction, rip-offs, and murder, she remains unshaken in her idealism. In this wonderful novel, the sixties are not a clown show or a costume party, not a joke or political cartoon. They are, as I believe them to be in my own heart, the key to the survival of the human race.”
Thank you, Faren and Lew!
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|The Next Thing|
|Keep Fit, Keep Writing: A Roundtable with Kevin J. Anderson, Lisa Mason and Linda Nagata (Part 2: Chow Down!)|
|Reviews of Summer of Love by Locus Magazine and Award-winning Author Lewis Shiner|
|The Story Collection Storybundle|
All content copyright 2000-2017 by Lisa Mason. All artwork copyright 2000-2017 by Tom Robinson.
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