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WesternSFA
Callahan's Key
by Spider Robinson
Copyright 2000, 335 pp
So, by now, you should know the demise of Mary’s Place was due to bureaucracy, and what a heinous demise it was. Poor Jake just folded; with no clue what to do next. They tried everything: gathering together in the dead of the night, pretending to be a meditation group, even – gasp – without alcohol. So it was, on a particularly nasty winter day in Long Island, Jake came home to find both the Lucky Duck and Nikky Tesla waiting for him – to save the universe – again. Of course, to be perfectly accurate, they’d never had to save the whole universe before. But to do so, Jake has to get the gang back together again or the universe doesn’t stand a chance. The gang has scattered to the four winds – Ernie hasn’t been seen in months and Doc Webster moved away – states away. And, in his usual style, Spider spins a collection of unlikely coincidences that come together in just minutes. So, not more than a half hour later, counting the bungled robbery attempt, Jake now has the money for a new bar and a new location – Key West , Florida .

Then comes a hippy roadtrip as Jake and his friends send out a rallying call to all who will join them in moving the bar to Florida . No surprise that EVERYONE is willing leave the life they have for a new life where they can all be together again. And, I’m sure that if Spider could have figured out how to move the whole gang in VW buses, he would’ve. But he does the next best thing – imagine a roadtrip of two dozen old yellow schoolbuses full of bar flies and hippies – going to Florida together. Herding cats would have been easier.

Half the book is devoted to the preparations and the roadtrip which is for the purpose of reuniting the gang and to give Jake time to come to grips with his new role of Leader. There’s also a little setup for the whole save-the-universe thing…from a Deathstar…seriously.

Then come the ‘industrious’ phase where Jake and his friends learn the real extent of the threat, how completely unlikely – and therefore assured – it is to occur, and the means to stop it. What is completely unexpected (but not to the gentle reader who had to know there was a reason for everything) is the choice of who’s going to do the truly risky part.

What is unusual about this story is the almost unbelievable lack of puns. Spider has gotten much more serious about his SF story. And this one was great fun if you’ve been following along. He tries to bring new readers up to speed; but let’s face it – unless you’ve been along for the whole ride, it’s hard to truly appreciate everyone’s role.

This was a much more structured story and shows, I think, a level of maturity in both Spider’s approach to Callahan’s gang and in Jake himself. There was a lot less exposition, for which I was grateful. The character focus was mainly on Jake and his immediate family. There were, of course, additions to the family; I particularly enjoyed the first event which happened on the roadtrip. The book did not leave anything undone, no teasers, no cliffhangers. Nothing to indicate what might happen next. Anything is possible, especially since they have Pixel now… ~~ Catherine Book

BONUS FOR EVERYONE WHO READ THIS FAR: When I? m done reviewing the whole series, there will be a Trivia Contest and the winner will win my whole Callahan collection. Click on the link to your left to see the trivia contest info and questions.

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