Lamp Post Motel by Joe Gold
Available for free download:
Podiobooks MP3: http://www.podiobooks.com/title/lamp-post-motel
There is also a link there for voluntary donations.
A large part of this book does not have an SF flavor (at least not the flavor of SF I tend to read). It's set a bit in the future - there's a cure/prevention for AIDS (which also provides other health benefits) that can be taken as food additives and is more effective if your body has more hormones from an active sex life. However, aside from that, life seems a lot like today. Lives of these particular characters aren't average for today, as they center around the owner and residents of a motel, and a militant lesbian. However, the ways in which they are not average is often not even of a "speculative fiction" nature.
There are a few subplots. There's Elmo, the motel owner. He's always been very shy, but managed to get a wife and child before a plane accident killed them. Since then, he's been pre-occupied running the motel, computerizing it, and video-recording some of the guests in their rooms for his personal viewing. The loss of his family has made him protective of mothers with children.
Thea is a lesbian intellectual / writer who theorizes males are so nasty because they are poisoned by testosterone. She and three other lesbians go to spend a couple of days in tents at a beach in Mexico. After having an argument one night, Thea walks off along the beach. A couple of Mexican hooligans come across her. They beat and rape her, and leave her unconscious and bleeding on the beach.
Loretta is a New Ager and prostitute who lives (and works) at the motel. She and a customer went to spend a night in a tent on the same beach in Mexico. While her customer is sleeping, she goes for a walk and finds Thea. They drive Thea, intending to get her to a hospital. During the drive, Thea becomes conscious and insists she doesn't want to go to a hospital. Loretta takes her back to the motel and nurses her with the help of a lady doctor who is staying at the motel. But Thea is very fearful of anyone else learning what has happened to her – and when she feels this is about to happen she shuts down, acting as if she was catatonic.
At some point in the past, Thea has made her lesbian lover, "Andy", promise that if anything happens to her that the police should not be called in. Andy has no idea where Thea disappeared to. She ends up hiring a woman private detective to try to find Thea...
These are the connecting subplots that make up most of the book. While other subplots have some life of their own; as a whole, the subplot about Thea is the one which shapes the book the most.
The science fiction comes in with a pair of college student time-travelers from the 40th century - one of whom is studying sexual anthropology of the 21st century. Their subplot joins the others in that they witness the attack on Thea and follow Loretta and Thea back to the motel. The motel is a good place for their study of sexual anthropology. They contact Elmo via computer - offering him the opportunity to enter the minds of others. Initially, this is a combination of helping Elmo with his "hobby" of watching his guests and the students collecting information for their research.
The story develops relatively slowly, letting events ease along. There’s a lot of description of characters and setting. It provides a drama of the people around the motel and the students. The book also has some of the flavor of stories portraying odd characters. There’s some of the predictable subplot of the students’ problems dealing with the unfamiliar ways of life in the 21st century – but not as much as I expected. Perhaps this will appeal to those who consider SF to have a shortage of “character driven” stories.
This is not for the kids, but generally the sexual content is not too explicit. There is an extended lesbian scene towards the end of the book. If you stopped reading at that point, you’d miss aspects of the conclusion of the book, but the book would not necessarily be a loss. If you prefer not to read that sort of thing, it would be better to skim over it until the scene changes.
This is not for when you feel like reading “serious SF” or “hard SF”. However, if you feel like reading something of the mixed genre described above, you’ll find a book with attention to characters and surroundings.
There is one MP3 file for each chapter of the book. One of the files is a duplicate of the previous chapter. I didn’t notice a gap in the story, so even if this means a chapter is missing, it doesn’t seem that serious.