TITLE: Cowboy Feng’s Space Bar and Grille
AUTHOR: Steven Brust
IS THIS SF?
YES—explosions, atomic bombs, epidemiology, non-terrestrial colonization, time travel, etc. There is also a Wild-West feel to the book, with most of the action (murders, bomb threats, shoot-outs, expository dialogue) being centered around the bar and its patrons. This is also reflected in the throwback weapons that the bar-folk arm themselves with, including revolvers, rifles, knives, etc. As an additional anachronism, the bar-band specializes in Irish music!
Goodguys from the future devise a means to go back in time to try and find the rationale behind nuclear decimation of colonies by the Badguys. The means is a bar that uses “hasn’t it always been there?” technology to blend in to the environs so the crew (and the house musicians) can both blend in and investigate.
REALLY A MUSICIAN?
YES-Protagonist plays the banjo, describes usages of different chords and scales, talks with others about instrumentation, phrase lengths, adjustments in vocal harmonies and tempos.
WHY A MUSICIAN?
In terms of the unfolding of the plot, it’s good to have non-task specific people (compared to cooks, bartenders, etc.) with lots of free time in your group, allowing time and opportunity for socialization, intermingling, investigating, getting out into the local environs. Additionally, the musicians also attract other musicians as a kind of first contact. Eventually the Goodguys even grabb one from the Badguys when the shit starts to hit the fan. SPOILER: it turns out the our narrator-musician happens to be the lynchpin of the whole mission, in other words, the musician is actually the brains behind the scenes.
YES—Well writen, good use of characters, plot intrigue. The writing has that 80s / 90s feel to it; not really cyberpunk, not really hard SF, not really post-PKD, and the action is pretty spread out, so a lot of the novel is people hanging out, playing music, making conversation, developing relationships, etc. This a good thing, as it acts as a foil for the last third of the novel where things start to get intense.