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Their Majesties' Bucketeers by L. Neil Smith
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Their Majesties' Bucketeers

by L. Neil Smith

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I did not like this book. I read it because I absolutely loved the earlier books in the series, particularly the first one "The probability Broach" however their majesties bucketeers is barley related. To the point I ever contacted the author to see if LibraryThing had the series in correct order.

This story takes place at an earlier time than that of Win Bear, on a far away planet before they had contact with Earth. The dominant species on their home world has three of everything (three arms/legs/three genders/etc.) and since Smith wrote it, of course they love guns!

These unbeliever crab people can't stand water. To the point they discuss what is basically evaluation and the idea they they ever had to consume water to live, let alone lived in it. Also Smith is obsessed with smoking in this one. I don't understand why some science fiction writers feel the need to go to extents to show "look these guys do daily things, slightly different than we do." I read some Star Wars authors who oppressed about the way Han Solo drank his "coffee" too, so its not just Smith.

Anyway the story, for what there is, about a professor of science who is murdered, he happened to dare hint that creationism might not be the thing. There is some internal struggles, you forget they are crab people, then OMG water, we can't go outside. WOW a car with a roof, and a rain coat, why did we never think of these things. Well we will just say we know who killed him hoping that makes the killer admit it. The end. ( )
  fulner | Aug 11, 2016 |
A glorious mix of Sherlock Holmes, evolution vs fundamentalism, and a trilaterally symmetrical species with an extreme aversion to water. The world-building and plot-structure may be heavily derivational in concept but it's wonderfully detailed in the direction it takes the ramifications of how it all plays out in this alien environment. ( )
  zeborah | Jun 5, 2013 |
The story: Trilateral aliens solve a murder.

The good: It's an interesting Holmes pastiche. The aliens were fascinating; yes, their thought processes weren't that alien, but the culture, the three genders, and the general worldbuilding were great fun. (The moment when it clicked with me which of a character's three names would be emphasized, and why the system worked that way -- that's what I read SFF for.) I'd love to read more set in this culture.

The bad: Too much authorial preaching. I'm in rabid agreement with some of the author's views and tempered agreement with others, and I still found those passages annoying; they felt like the author self-inserting rather than the characters speaking in-character.

The middling: I'd have liked to see more about the females; we get a good sense of the male and surmale place in society, but the female place is left rather nebulous. There was one scene towards the end that became very confusing, and I never did figure out what its point was supposed to be other than to include a brawl.

Overall, I'd recommend the book to Sherlockians. ( )
  castiron | May 10, 2013 |
Their Majesties' Bucketeers is an AU where Holmes and Watson are Lamviin - small, trilaterally symmetrical crustaceans who live on a desert planet that is in their people's equivalent of our Victorian period. Also, they do *everything* in threes, not just symmetry - including sex and gender, so yes, there is, in fact, canon!OT3. It is at *least* as awesome as it sounds.

I found a copy of this book at a yard sale when I was about fourteen, and it's on my list of "books that got re-read dozens of times in high school"; I only found & remembered it a few weeks ago when I was unpacking, and I had forgotten just how much I loved it; and hadn't realized how much of my thinking about SF in recent years has been working from this book as the lost archetype.

Mymisiir Offe Woom, our POV character, is a surmale paracauterist (paramedic/trauma surgeon) in their Majesties' Bucketeer service. In fact, rhe has followed in rher surfather's fingertracks to become one of the first generation of respectable surmale professionals, and is fiercely proud of the independent status that offers rher.

Rhe is friend, admirer, and chronicler of Agot Edmoot Mav, male Inquirer in the bucketeer service, inventor of scientific forensics, and the world's first undercover detective. Mymy is continually beset by Mav's insistence on pickling his brain with dangerous chemicals, and on keeping company with disreputable personages - such as Vyssu, the smart and outspoken female brothel manager (and knitting enthusiast) who eventually completes their trine.

I submit to you, lords, ladies and lurries: is it not *awesome*, the mere fact that this book exists?

Together, the three of them are investigating the dramatic murder of Professor Srafen, an old surmale mentor of Mav's and discoverer of the theory of evolution, and in the process travel between many parts of Lamviin society, including an apocalyptic cult and the mad inventors' club. And, of course, they fall in love with each other. :D

Yes, you can say all you like about various permutations of Holmes/Watson/Irene/Mary, but Mymy/Mav/Vyssu will *always* be my Holmesverse OT3. (Mav is substantially less broken than Holmes in movieverse, but he's broken *enough*, an it's amazing how close M/M/V comes to *being* movieverse OT4, with Watson and Mary neatly combined into one character in the person of Mymy.)

The whole book is told in Mymy's first-person POV, and there are no non-lamviin characters at all (though there's an introduction from a human POV that gives the story context as an account of historical events from before their first extraplanetary contact.) The worldbuilding is just so spot-on, with everything taken for granted but introduced slowly and naturally, so that by halfway through what is really a very short novel it seems perfectly normal for Mymy to use the little lurries' room and admire Mav's shapely walking-arms and shudder in disgust at the mention of rain. And the surmale pronouns and words seem natural by about three pages in (I still kind of wonder why the accepted othergender pronouns have ended up being unpronounceable things like xie and sie - what's wrong with rhe and rher? They're good enough for Mymy!) If I can ever write an SF novel that carries off an alien world *this* well, I will be satisfied with my skills.

It's not a perfect book (though it's close): the author L. Neil Smith, who you may recognize as the writer of several of the early Star Wars novels, is a very politically active social liberatarian, and the wonderful, subtle worldbuilding and mystery story is interrupted at several points by extremely *unsubtle* political dialogues, though they're easy enough to identify & skip over; if you can handle Heinlein, it should be no trouble.

And it's got the race and colonialism issues that all Victorian stories must, compounded by the libertarian insistence on individual determination above all, although having them be furry crab creatures who never quite exactly parallel Earth cultures makes it -- at least slightly less personal. Also, I didn't remember this from my earlier readings, but Mav is multiracial - his father was a high-ranking officer in the Imperial military, but his surfather was Podfettian (think German or Russian) and his mother was from a dark-furred colonialized culture several continents over. And Vyssu's antecedents are unclear but she is stated to be recognizably descended from colonized peoples as well. It's hard to say just what that means in the book's context, through the lenses of time and alienness and libertarian doctrine (and despite the characters being mixed-race, there's some clear exoticizing going on, especially of the native-american analogues), but damp does it cry out for fanfic. :D

(I could go on and on about lamn gender too, but I doubt anyone else reading this knows the book, so I will simply reiterate: IT NEEDS FANFIC.)

Apparently some of the lamnviin characters from this book reappear in some of Smith's later novels, post-contact, but those novels sound much more politically doctrinaire so I have been having trouble gaining the enthusiasm to read them, as much as I *love* his worldbuilding skills when he lets the politics go.

Verdict: *So* glad it exists. And Mymy/Mav/Vyssu is still my canon OT3 for all Holmes fandom everywhere. I had forgotten how deeply I loved this book in high school - my copy is falling apart, and I still have stretches memorized, ten years since my last re-read. ( )
  melannen | Mar 22, 2010 |
ZB4 ( )
  mcolpitts | Jul 31, 2009 |
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