cover image Commitment Hour

Commitment Hour

James Alan Gardner. Eos, $6.99 (352pp) ISBN 978-0-380-79827-8

Nebula Award nominee Gardner (Expendable) gives a less-than-stellar performance with this silly look at the future of sex roles. In the 25th century, teenage Fullin, along with his lover, Cappie, and the other villagers of Tober Cove, enjoy the right of selecting what gender they will be for their adult lives: the ""Commitment Hour"" of the title, is the night when the two must make the big decision. Although Gardner lacks the finesse of Le Guin's anthropological SF, he packs his story with intriguing characters and numerous plot twists to compensate. But a visiting anthropologist, a murder, even the discovery that Fullin's mother is a hermaphrodite, do not add up to a compelling or complete novel. A convoluted climax, in which Fullin discovers the real origin of Cove's society, is just too expository and messy to supply any satisfying emotional payoff or meaningful message about gender and society. (Apr.)