Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Silver Metal Lover by Tanith Lee: Classic of Science Fiction Romance? by Diane Dooley

[Heather’s note: I had read THE SILVER METAL LOVER some time ago and enjoyed it very much. Strangely, however, I had never blogged about it at length before. So when TGE regular contributor Diane Dooley approached me about doing a post on it, I jumped at the chance.]

I often think of science fiction romance as a shiny new genre, ripe with infinite possibilities. I’m wrong. It does have infinite possibilities, but it’s not new. It has its own rich history and those of us who aspire to write it would do well to investigate our forerunners. One such classic of science fiction romance is The Silver Metal Lover by Tanith Lee. It has long been on my list of books I really need to read, yet it was a happy accident that led me to finding it recently.

On vacation in a book-stuffed cabin on a lake in Canada, my husband handed me a much-thumbed, brown-paged, coverless paperback of this book. “Looks like your kind of thing,” he said, grinning, as I swooped on it with excitement. I fully expected to love it to bits. I didn’t, but it was one of the most interesting reading experiences I’ve had in a while. Let me explain.

I plunged into the book, but even from the first page I was struggling. The story is told in first person, from the perspective of the whiny, spoiled, teenaged Jane, who was much given to frequent bouts of self-pity and copious weeping. Ugh.  It had a very YA vibe to it. (I have an unfortunate love/hate relationship with YA literature.) For the first few chapters the only thing that kept me reading was Lee’s rather lovely prose and my interest in her world building. But then something happened. It wasn’t a particular event in the story or anything I can really pin down, but I found I couldn’t stop reading. As much as I disliked Jane and her awful set of friends, I was as hooked as one of the big mouth bass my husband and sons were landing with regularity out on the lake.

The closest I can come to pinning it down is to just give props to the writer.  Lee’s development of the characters of Jane and her beautiful, doomed, robot  lover was masterful. The plot is slight. Not much happens, but the developing relationship between the two touched me so deeply I was, at times, reading with a big, nasty lump in my throat and a passionate desire to see these two happy and safe. I am not a reader that always needs a huge, fat happy ending and will warn prospective readers that The Silver Metal Lover does not provide such. It is, at base, a tragic Romeo and Juliet-type of story.

The ending is somewhat upbeat, but I actually thought it a little silly and incongruous.  I would have enjoyed the book more if it had ended a little earlier, even if it did leave me in floods of tears. Despite this, Tanith Lee has surged to the top of my must-read-more-by-this-author list. I’m open to recommendations.

Although I had some problems with the book, I highly recommend it to lovers of YA fiction, romance readers, and writers of science fiction romance. Has anyone else read it? What was your reaction? Do you agree that it is a classic of science fiction romance? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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Diane Dooley is the author of science fiction romances, Blue Galaxy from Carina Press, Mako’s Bounty from Decadent Publishing, the forthcoming Blue Nebula, also from Carina Press, and numerous short stories. You can find her on Twitter and Facebook.