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Callahan’s Con

by Spider Robinson

For more than a quarter-century, the gang from Callahan’s Place has been facing interplanetary peril, exploring strange new species (and drinks), and pushing the boundaries of physics and fiction alike. Spider Robinson’s ongoing series of novels focuses on a ragtag, multi-specied group of adventurers who met at the original Callahan’s Place on Long Island. Callahan’s was run by Mike Callahan, who, it turned out, was actually a time traveller from the far-distant future. Callahan is long gone from the series, and the gang has now settled in Key West, where their eccentricities pale in comparison to the main tourist drag.

Despite having saved the world on a number of occasions, the gang faces their most insidious peril: the Florida state Board of Education. Combine that with a less-than-bright aspiring Mafioso who wants to shake down the neighbourhood, a calculated search for the fountain of youth, and some perilous time travel and you’ve got all the fixings for a classic Callahan adventure.

Robinson has created a compelling mythos that is both fantastically challenging and fundamentally human, even when its characters aren’t (featured players in Callahan’s Con include a bawdy and articulate elfin deer). The story hinges on issues of, and threats to, family and home, and it is through a strengthening of community that these are saved. The story also deals movingly with death and loss, both threatened and actual.

After nine Callahan books, Robinson’s tone is familiar and comfortable; the humour is smoothly integrated and doesn’t distract from the narrative. The characters are, necessarily, larger than life, but a few, including protagonist Jake Stonebender and his wife Zoey, are compellingly real. Readers of previous Callahan stories will return eagerly to The Place, sinking into their favourite chairs to catch up on what has happened in their absence. Like the best neighbourhood bars, though, strangers are welcome, and if you haven’t checked out Callahan’s, this might be a good time to give it a shot.