Peter Icarus is a middle-aged man, if he can be called that, still struggling to overcome an abusive childhood. He feels abandoned by his mother, ambivalent toward his own children, and desperate for the approval of almost any other random female who happens along.
He also goes to an alien planet, Troubadour, where he worries about his inadequacies. He encounters new life and strange new civilizations, and dreams about his motherís thighs. He almost gets eaten by a tree and argues over social issues last seen in a beginnerís sociology textbook. He performs heroic feats of psychoanalysis on everyone he meets, including his computer. And he remembers his mother.
If youíre beginning to feel frustrated, less interested in Peter's issues than the potential drama promised by a world of aliens and carnivorous trees, then you can save yourself the price of a book; youíve just experienced Troubadour. Make up a few doggerel poems, look at the lovely cover art online, and youíll get the full effect of the work without ever having to crack the spine.
The main character of Troubadour would doubtless accuse me of lashing out, attacking others because some need of mine has not been met. HeĎd be half right; I need my fiction to deliver a compelling story as well as propaganda, and I need any author to show at least a consistent level of literacy. But if Troubadour just wasnít terribly strong science fiction, it wouldnít be worthy of attack. What takes it above and beyond the call of mediocrity is Peter's constant unavoidable obsession with his mother. It turns up in flashbacks, dream sequences, long internal monologues - and, most unpleasantly, in a rather gratuitous sex scene. This Oedipal fixation turns Troubadour into a sci-fi parody of psychology, as seen through TV and New Yorker comics; everything goes back to the mother or father, everything is about infancy or early childhood. No current need is ever pressing or interesting enough, no amount of life long enough, for Our Hero to rise above his infantile abandonment complex - and so, the story preaches, are we all. This mother-obssession also has the effect of making every female character into the book an alien, even those who are technically human. In turn, the story is a deeply alienating for female readers, who must deal not only with the forced ogling of women sadly common to the genre, but two worlds of female characters whose internal motivations never move beyond caring for or punishing the rather immature hero. Itís alternately creepy and comical, but never enlightening.
If you really feel the need to work out parental issues, get yourself to a good psychotherapist. If you feel the need for a solid bit of science fiction, find yourself a better world than Troubadour.