The Widowmaker, by Mike Resnick: A aged, disease ridden bounty hunter is near death. A clone is made of him from DNA sampled when he was a young man of 24, before he became sick but before he became experienced. The clone is to take a job which should pay for additional cryo storage for the bounty hunter until a cure can be found. The clone of Jefferson Nighthawk, the Widowmaker, is trained up as much as possible and sent on his way. The clone, however, has his own ideas of who he is and who he wants to be. The Widowmaker is the story of the clone and is told in typical Resnick fast paced style with some interesting side characters along for the ride. Unlike some of Resnick’s other work, for some reason The Widowmaker doesn’t have quite the free flowing kick that his Starship series does, or that some of his earlier novels do. The Widowmaker still has a good emotional wallop to throw at readers, but it is difficult to get emotionally invested with the cloned Nighthawk. That said, at only 300 pages there is little that is truly wrong with The Widowmaker. It is a perfectly average, acceptable, entertaining SF novel. Resnick has done better, though.
Laughing Boy, by Oliver LaFarge: As I have chipped my way through winners of the Pulitzer Price for Fiction (or, for The Novel as it was once labeled), I have found that the earliest winners are the ones I struggle the most with. Not because they are lesser works, but because generally the novels focus on class, and elite society, and the placement of people within that society. That subject almost without exception bores me to tears. Literally, tears. I cry when I read society novels, they are that uninteresting. Which brings me to Laughing Boy. Nothing like those society novels. Laughing Boy is set almost exclusively in Native American culture and tribes, with a native protagonist (title character). Laughing Boy allows himself to be an outsider to his family and tribe when he marries a woman with a bad reputation and who has lived with the white people. I can see how Laughing Boy could have potentially inspired later generations of native writers and white writers who want to deal with the subject (I don’t know if La Farge was Native or not, though like Julia Peterkin, my guess is that he was white). Laughing Boy gets down into Native culture, language, identity, and perception of different tribes and of the whites. I believe this is set pre-Civil War (possibly Post, but it’s in that general timeframe). Because of the subject, Laughing Boy is a refreshing change from all those white upper crusty novels populating the list of the early Pulitzer winners.