THE FREE LUNCH

Spider Robinson, Author . Tor $22.95 (256p) ISBN 978-0-312-86524-5

This smoothly written, well-paced romp from Canadian author Robinson (Telempath) takes places in 2023 at Dreamworld, a Disneyland-style park, whose themes draw from SF, fantasy and 1960s popular culture. Twelve-year-old Mike tries to hide himself in Dreamworld, but runs into the "Mother Elf," a midget named Annie. Comparing notes, they begin to suspect that Dreamworld is being infiltrated, but by whom? They first suspect "aliens," then agents of Alonzo Haines, proprietor of Dreamworld's spatterpunk rival, Thrillworld. Then they discover that Haines's formidable enforcer, Randall Conway, is after the aliens—and after them as well. Mike and Annie ally themselves with the mystery folk, particularly an ingenious little gentleman named Hormat with an arsenal of high-tech dirty tricks, simply in order to stay alive long enough to find out where Hormat is literally coming from. In due course, after Conway gets what he deserves, all secrets are revealed, with Hormat's being so unoriginal as to be almost anticlimactic. Besides piling on the warm fuzzies, Robinson pays blatant homage to Robert A. Heinlein, retelling the classic youth-and-mentor tale of that author's juveniles and referring extensively to his work in the Dreamworld themes. The conclusion hints at a sequel in which Mike and Annie will infiltrate Thrillworld. Fans of lightweight SF should be pleased. (Aug. 27)

FYI:Best known for the Callahan series, Robinson has won the Hugo, Nebula and John W. Campbell awards.

Reviewed on: 07/09/2001
Release date: 08/01/2001
Genre: Fiction
Mass Market Paperbound - 256 pages - 978-0-8125-4022-2
Compact Disc - 978-1-4708-3640-5
MP3 CD - 978-1-4708-3643-6
Compact Disc - 6 pages - 978-1-4708-3641-2
Audio Product - 978-1-4708-4170-6
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