Travels with my Cats by Resnick, Mike, 2004
Though I do consider myself an enthusiast of genre stories in general, I have never really had much of an ear or eye for the romance genre. My personal opinion is that romance tales are generally boring because they deal with topics that do not appeal to my literary sensibilities. But there are a few SF stories that have romance motifs, and generally speaking, they tend to be interesting because they are different. Travels with my Cats, by Mike Resnick is a romance story that is set in the near future, but adheres to almost Victorian sensibilities with regard to relations and physical contact between the sexes. Three stars out of five.
The name of this one alone was almost enough to dissuade me from the bother of reading it the first time I found it on-line, but I am slowly turning into a die-hard Resnick fan, so I gave it a chance, and am I ever glad that I did. Travels with my Cats is not only the name of this story, but it is also the name of a book within the story. Ethan Owens bought the book at a rummage sale for a nickel as a boy because that was all he could afford, and fell in love with it the first time he read it. It was a travel memoir by its author, Miss Priscilla Wallace, who traveled across Africa and Asia and South America before the depression with her two tabby cats and her father. Ethan craved the thrill and excitement of travel, and daydreamed that he could go on exotic trips with Miss Priscilla and see the world. Alas, none of that was to be. As Ethan aged he eventually forgot about the book, and turned into a boring, bald, middle aged man who never married. He moved to the country and got a job as a newspaperman, putting together advertisement circulars. As he found his routine, he settled down for that long wait til death. But fate intervened before he could march too far down that road. Miss Priscilla had died almost seventy years before, as a young lady. But one evening Ethan went out to his porch and found a beautiful young woman sitting in a rocking chair with a cat. It was Miss Priscilla, and she had something to do from beyond the grave.
Resnick could have gone on with a straight love story here, and it felt at first like that is what he would do. There were plenty of passages where Ethan looked longingly at Priscilla and dared to try to touch her to convince himself that she was real. But he never did. In one sense this story is about time; Prior to her very early death Priscilla needed to see the world because she wanted to tell people incredible things so that she would be remembered.
There is so much yet to see, so much still to do, that on days like this I wish I could live forever. I take comfort in the heartfelt belief that long after I am gone, I will be alive again for as long as someone picks up a copy of this book and reads it.
Ethan was the antithesis of Priscilla in action, though his dreams were as big as hers. He needed someone to give him a real reason to get up off of his ass and go out into the world. But there was more to this story too. Priscilla obviously would literally come back to life as long as someone had a copy of her book and was reading it. But she published it through a small vanity press in New England, and there were very few copies of it even initially. The last time Priscilla came to visit Ethan she left her cats to keep him company. Ethan lived in the country in an area thick with raccoons. He left the kitchen window open so that the cats could get in and out, and a raccoon got into his house and destroyed his copy of Priscilla's book. Since he could not read the book any longer, his love Priscilla would not visit him, and would really be dead. So he started travelling, searching for a new copy of the book, so he could bring her back again.
Travels with my Cats is an incredibly charming story. What it really is about is how romantic love can shake us to our cores and make us do things we normally would never have done. And even though it is about a weird old cat man who hates raccoons, it succeeds pretty well.
Copyright © 2008, Gregory Tidwell