Why So Serious?

LoisClarkLois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman was a TV series from the ’90s that emphasized the flirty relationship between Lois Lane and Clark Kent. During its four-season history, the show was a fun and good-natured romantic comedy.

But judging by this 1996 novel, author C.J. Cherryh never saw a single episode of the show. It’s an extremely serious book with very little comic banter between Lois and Clark. Cherryh doesn’t come anywhere close to capturing the spirit of the TV series.

Even more troubling, Lois & Clark: A Superman Novel is actually two separate books smooshed disharmoniously together. In one novel, Superman is tending to a disaster “somewhere uphill of Chechnya.” In the other novel, Lois is reporting on an disaster in Metropolis. In both, Clark Kent is simply a forgetful dingbat who drifts in and out of the newsroom at the Daily Planet.

Nowhere is there any winsome Nick and Nora-like chemistry between the two lovebirds. There is a smidgen of romance here and there (mostly at the end), but Cherryh seems to be saying that love and career are two separate things for Lois and Clark. “She had her job and he had his,” writes the author. “And they each did what they had to.”

Despite the book’s many missteps (and believe us there are many glaring missteps), Cherryh’s writing remains top-notch from the first page to the last chapter. She’s a veteran science fiction and fantasy author who has won a raft of industry awards (including the Hugo for her novels Downbelow Station and Cyteen). In truth, there’s no way a C.J. Cherryh novel is going to be a total bust.

For example, the way she describes Superman in the air is terrific. These reoccurring passages may be the best writing in the book. “He broke through the gloomy gray clouds of Metropolis into the brilliant day that existed above the storm, rising into increasing cold and thinner air. Here he breathed like a swimmer in surf, water streaming off him and then freezing in his wake. Snow might have followed him, however briefly.”

Flying across the Atlantic: “He wasn’t hungry, but he was burning up the energy around him, turning the air colder than surrounding air and creating microweather as he went, an effect that could generate a sparkle of ice as moisture froze in midair.”

And over Asia Minor: “He flew high, high above political boundaries where his radar signature might trip alarms and scramble aircraft. He might have been a falling satellite. A piece of space junk. A cosmic piece of debris above the ancient and disputed land of Anatolia.”

Because of the ongoing crisis in Europe, Superman spends a lot of time in this book going back and forth across the Atlantic Ocean. Cherryh wants her readers to know that flying solo is a big part of being Superman. It’s lonely business being the last son of Krypton. But it doesn’t have to be that way. A man who can fly through a sunset should be able to share that experience with someone he loves.

[Lois & Clark: A Superman Novel / By C.J. Cherryh / First Printing: August 1996 / ISBN: 9780761504825]

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