Today's book review is Tales of the Velvet Comet by Mike Resnick.
This is an omnibus of Resnick's four Velvet Comet novels, Eros Ascending, Eros at Zenith, Eros Descending, and Eros at Nadir. They were originally published in the 1980s before I started collecting Resnick, and this is the first time I have seen them for sale in any form. This is physically an odd volume: it is an outsize trade paperback, the full height of a regular hardcover, but noticeably wider, so that it sticks way out from the rest of the books on the shelf. The pages are printed in two columns. It is not clear why Farthest Star (the publisher) chose this awkward format -- the book is only 400 pages, so it clearly could have been printed in a normal format without being too thick to bind.
The four novels form a series of sorts, but it's a more creative and interesting series than many. They're all set aboard the Velvet Comet -- the most opulent monument to conspicuous consumption in Resnick's galaxy-spanning civilization, and possibly the most expensive brothel in SF. The only recurring character is the ship's computer; the novels are spread out across decades so that all of the Comet's personnel have turned over from one novel to the next. Eros Ascending is a love story set against a backdrop of corporate intrigue, with an ending that, hopefully without giving anything away, wouldn't leave the reader feeling very good if it stood alone. Eros at Zenith is a detective story, with a twist that the detective is such a jerk that you're not quite sure if you want him to solve the case or not. Eros Descending is a story of the evils of fundamentalism. Resnick tells us in the afterword that its central character is supposed to be sympathetic, but he's too icky for me to believe in him. Finally, Eros at Nadir is a quirkily self-referential story about writing and the nature of prostitution. Four quite different novels that still fit together well.
Resnick is a sadly underappreciated writer, and the fact that four of his more meaningful novels have been out of print for 15 years and are only back in print in this odd small-press omnibus only emphasizes this. There's a lot for me to dislike about Tales of the Velvet Comet, from the thoroughly dislikable viewpoint characters to the philosophy I don't agree with, and yet I found this book both enjoyable and worthwhile. Things that would destroy a less well written book for me not only don't bother me, they actually belong. 9 out of 10.