September 21st, 2009

New Tilley Hat

Dunn's Conundrum, by Stan Lee (no, the other one)

One of the most interesting things about Dunn's Conundrum, a novel by Stan Lee, is the confusion over who wrote it. lists it as a novel by the comic mogul Stan Lee. The copyright is under Stanley R. Lee, a completely other person, perhaps most infamous for his involvement in the Daisy ad during the 1964 election. doesn't care. I'm inclined to believe the latter, since the book is remarkably non-cinematic and doesn't sound like ol' "Nuff Said" himself. Whatever.

Dunn's Conundrum is pretty good. Published in 1985, it makes a bunch of assertions about politics and the spy game that are still basically true. The spy novel chugs along, perhaps not quite the thriller John LeCarré or Tom Clancy might write, but certainly better than the science fiction of its time.

The science fiction/spy literature circa 1982-1992 is quite interesting, in an historical sort of way. This is the period between the rise of the internet and personal computer but before the world wide web. Reagan's anti-Soviet saber rattling until the fall of the Soviet Union. Most speculative fiction didn't get the internet right. 80s cyberpunk seems almost quaint. SF writers, especially the right wingers, tried to rattle their own sabers with varying results.
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As speculative fiction: Not too shabby. Holds up better than most cyberpunk and the political commentary rings true. As an historical set-piece it can be read as a snapshot of the times, and so works as well or better than, say, Bonfire of the Vanities. The implications of the changing nature of privacy are well thought-out and apply to today's social networks as well as our spy networks.

Whichever Stan Lee wrote this, he did a good job. If you're into privacy/technology issues or just like political thrillers, you'll probably like Dunn's Conundrum.