One of the things that happens when you finally get around to putting your previously crated books up on shelves, is that you happen across books that you love that you haven't read in ages. I finished rereading one such book last night, Circus World, Barry B. Longyear's first collection of short stories set on the planet Momus. Momus was first settled when a starship crashlanded on the previously uninhabited planet, leaving the survivors out of contact with the rest of the universe for some two hundred years. The ship was carrying a circus, and all the survivors were circus folk. What kind of society would they build?
The stories form a rough narrative of a time of crisis on what had previously been a fairly peaceful place. The rest of the universe has finally noticed Momus, and it turns out that it's strategically located between two warring factions. Sort of like Midway, if Midway had semi-intelligent lizards instead of gooney birds living on it. Lord Ashly Allenby, the special ambassador from Earth, is sent to Momus to negotiate a defense treaty. The Earth faction's laws require that they be officially invited to defend a planet by the planet's lawful government. Nice in theory, but Momus has no government to speak of. The various circus acts have formed guilds over the years, i.e., the clowns guild, the fortune tellers guild, the magicians guild, the freaks guild, etc., and each town has their own set of guilds that govern the people in them. Momus only has one law, its law for making new laws, which is so impractically arcane that no one has ever bothered trying to enact a second law. (b.org, anyone?) The book starts out with Allenby's efforts to get the Momans just to listen to him, and continues through various episodes with Allenby remains the central figure throughout, sometimes as lead, sometimes as observer, or even sometimes as just a cameo. The stories are filled with humor, although the weakest one in the book is the one that is supposed to be funny, a very short tale about a duel between two master clowns that relies mostly on puns that crash and burn on the printed page. It's is a tale that would be better spoken aloud (as it is within the story).
I first read these stories in SF magazines in the late seventies, and later bought the collection. It's an odd thing, because I've never really been a fan of the circus, but I still enjoy these a lot. Longyear also wrote Enemy Mine, which I read in a magazine back in the day, too. Thanks to the interbunny, I now know that Longyear wrote two more books about Momus, one of which I ordered from Amazon, which is a story in itself...
I've recently placed three separate orders with Amazon. The first, about a month ago, was for a DVD, a DVD player, and a book, debg's Famous Flower of Serving Men, all of which arrived without a hitch. The second order, placed just before Thanksgiving, included four books, two by Barry Longyear (one about Momus, one about writing), a book about the Kinks Village Green Preservation Society album, and Lost in the Grooves, by hecubot and Kim Cooper. Here's where it gets complicated. When I ordered it, Grooves was still listed by Amazon as "not yet released" (even though it was), so they sent me an e-mail saying that it wouldn't be shipped with the rest of the order, and that I could expect it sometime before February 1st. It actually arrived Monday. Yesterday morning I got another email from Amazon, notifying me that the Kinks book was out of stock, and I shouldn't expect it for a couple of weeks. Last night when I got home from work, there was another package from Amazon waiting for me, containing the Longyear writing book, and the Kinks book that I shouldn't be seeing for a couple of weeks. This morning, there was yet another email telling me that the Longyear writing book had just been shipped, and I should expect it in a few days. Perhaps I should just repackage the two books, and hold them until the Amazon arrival dates. Still no word on the short story collection.
(And... I've since checked my Amazon account, and it says that the book on writing I've been reading is actually the second collection of Momus stories. That can't be good.)
Meanwhile, I placed an order for a scanner, that was through Amazon, but actually with one of their partners. The order was placed the day before yesterday, normal shipping. This morning I walked out my door (into the face of the nor'easter), and there was a big ol' box sitting on my stoop. OMGWTF SCANNER! Apparently that noise I heard last evening that sounded vaguely like a knock wasn't the workers next door banging things. It was UPS.
And in the time it's taken me to write this, the storm has passed, and the sun is shining. huh.