Book Review: The Steps of the Sun, by Walter Tevis
Count me as a Walter Tevis fan now. I enjoyed The Steps of the Sun quite a bit. I read The Man Who Fell to Earth about fifteen years ago, but didn't know anything about Walter Tevis or his other books until recently, when these things started coming to my attention on Goodreads. I'd like to read Mockingbird. The Steps of the Sun showed up in the used section of the bookshop I frequent first though, and some quirkiness about the cover art, the synopsis, or the by-line ("Can one man save a PLANET? Can one planet save a MAN?") spoke to me, and I decided it was time to read some more Tevis.
Glad I did, because it really exceeded my expectations. Walter Tevis is a very thoughtful writer with a writing style that has an easy flow to it. He writes great characters. He's not so good at predicting the future, but the main character's thoughts are so fun to follow that anachronisms in the setting are overshadowed. We grant, this could happen in a universe somewhere‥ maybe‥ -ish.
The comparison that comes to mind most readily for this book is with C.J. Cherryh. Like so much of Cherryh's work, Tevis puts you square in the mind of an imperfect person struggling with an imperfect world and takes you through every step of this person's emotional journey. In The Steps of the Sun, we follow someone who is difficult to like, but very human, so identifiable. Ben Belson is a very macho guy's guy, and for as common of a hero trope as that may be, I can't think of many other books with this kind of main character, who also had such a rich emotional life. He can also kick ass when given half a chance.
I will definitely be keeping this book in my collection, as it is unique in the wider world of science fiction. It will be the kind of thing I recommend to people looking for more from science fiction than aliens and whizbang technology. And I'll definitely be reading more Walter Tevis.