Cover image for Callahan's Key
Callahan's Key
Robinson, Spider.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Bantam Books, [2000]

Physical Description:
ix, 336 pages ; 25 cm.
Format :


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X Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Nobody blends good science with bad puns as brilliantly as Spider Robinson, as his legion of devoted fans will attest. Now from the creator of the Callahan series comes an improbable tale of impending doom, a road trip, space, drugs, and rock 'n' roll.
Callahan's Key

The universe is in desperate peril. The United States' own defense system, orbiting above
an unknowing populace, is more vulnerable than its creators could have envisioned. Now, bombarded by a freakish cluster of natural phenomena, the ultimate protection has become a perfect doomsday machine. Its target: not just the U.S., not just Earth, but the entire universe. And only one man can stop the devastation this unholy weapon will wreak.
Unfortunately, he's not available.

So the job falls instead to bar owner Jake Stonebender. And his wife, Zoey, and superintelligent toddler, Erin. Not to mention two dozen busloads of ex-hippies and freaks, Robert Heinlein's wandering cat, a whorehouse parrot, and misunderstood genius-inventor Nikola Tesla, who is in fact alive and well.

It'll take a move to Key West, an experiment in mass telepathy, and hundreds of gallons of Irish coffee to save everything-as-we-know-it from annihilation. But it's nothing Jake Stonebender hasn't done before.... Callahan's Key is the story of a group of humans-more or less-who band together in a cosmic adventure-more or less-to make the universe safe for...well, probably more of the same.

Author Notes

Science fiction author Spider Robinson was born in the Bronx, New York on November 24, 1948. He received a Bachelor of Arts in English from the State University of New York. He began writing professionally in 1972 and has won numerous awards including three Hugos, one Nebula, and the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. He is best known for his Callahan stories and for the Stardance Sequence, which he co-wrote with his wife Jeanne Robinson. He was selected by the Heinlein Prize Trust to write Variable Star, a novel based on a 1955 outline created by Robert A. Heinlein. He also worked as a book reviewer for Galaxy, Analog, and New Destinies magazines and his opinion column Future Tense has appeared in The Globe and Mail since 1996. In 2001, he released Belaboring the Obvious, a CD featuring original music. He currently lives in Bowen Island, Brisith Columbia, Canada with his wife.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

What's the new Callahan novel about? Longtime fans will point out that the plot isn't particularly important; what is, is the characters' interactions and wordplay (mostly puns--real groaners). Jake Stonebender is mourning the closing of his bar, Mary's Place, and cursing the depth of the Long Island winter. A series of chance and purposeful encounters collects him, wife Zoey, their wildly precocious daughter, and the usual suspects--Ralph Von Wau Wau the talking dog, immortal scientist Nikola Tesla, Fast Eddie the monosyllabic fixer, etc.--and points them toward Key West, to prevent the earth's destruction, as usual. A ginger tomcat--a dead ringer for the late Robert Heinlein's pet--completes the entourage, and the fun comes from assembling a fleet of school buses, evading state troopers, and exploring NASA's shuttle launch system. Robinson resembles Heinlein in his mild anarchism; oft-cited, never described sex; and characters that think they're smarter than the rest of us--and are. His personal touch is recreational drugging. The results delight Callahan devotees. Others may find them a trifle tedious. --Roberta Johnson

Publisher's Weekly Review

The universe is again threatened with destruction, but fans of Jake Stonebender and his team will fear not, for they know that these heroes will not only save the day but will make it safely to happy hour. At the outset of the latest book in Nebula-winner Robinson's series of feel-good SF romps, we find Stonebender frustrated by the failure of his bar, Callahan's, and by the fact that none of his 50 closest friends still live near his Long Island home. So, in exchange for the chance to move with his friends, his wife and his wunderkind toddler to Key West, where he'll open a new watering hole, Jake accepts an assignment from famed scientist Nikola Tesla to save the universe. The narrative progresses as Jake and company board 20 buses for the road trip down to Florida, during which they party, clash with the fuzz and meet a talking German shepherd (complete with accent) and Robert Heinlein's cat, Pixel. Along the way, Robinson delivers some amusing good times and an inspirational description of a space shuttle launch. True to form, he constructs the end of the universe from some mind-bending but solid science, and he proves as consummate at maintaining suspense as he is at keeping the laughs coming. Fans and the uninitiated alike will devour this intoxicating blend of character comedy and hard SF, for Robinson's writing remains as potentially addictive and as full of earthy delight as Stonebender's famed Irish coffee. (July) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

The universe faces total annihilation, and Jake Stonebender, former proprietor of the now-defunct Mary!s Place, his wife, Zoey, and an assortment of oddball friends answer the call to arms"after they relocate from Long Island to the warmer climes of Key West. The latest addition to Robinson!s Callahan novels features his usual blend of homegrown wisdom and laconic humor and includes a guest appearance by the late Nikola Tesla (Uncle Nikky). Series fans will welcome this unabashedly rollicking sf adventure. Recommended for most collections. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Cold Reboot "The future will be better tomorrow." -J. Danforth Quayle It's always coldest before the warm. Oh, it could have been colder that day, I guess--I hear there are places up north where fifty below is considered a balmy day. But it could be a lot hotter than where I am now, if it comes to that. This is just about as warm as I care to be--and the day the whole thing started, I was as cold as I ever hope to get again in my life. It was only twenty below, that day . . . but for Long Island, that's unusually frosty, even in the dead of winter. Which that winter surely was: dead as folk music. Dead as Mary's Place. Dead as Callahan's Place. Dead as my life, or my hopes for the future. You've read Steinbeck's the winter of our discontent? Well, 1989 was the winter of our despair . . . It's the little things you remember. You know how snow gets into your boots and makes you miserable? I had been forced to stagger through a drift of snow so deep it had gotten into my pants. A set of long underwear makes a wonderful wick. The damp patches from above and below had met at my knees almost at once. Not that snow of yesterday's blizzard had fallen to a depth of waist height. Long Island isn't Nova Scotia or anything. My long soggies were simply the result of my tax dollars at work. Just as I'd been in sight of my home--driving with extreme caution, and cursing the damned Town of Smithtown that should have plowed this stretch of Route 25A yesterday, for Chrissake--I had seen the town snowplow, coming toward me from the east. I'd experienced a microsecond of elation before the situation became clear to me, and then I had moaned and banged my forehead against the steering wheel. Sure enough, the plow sailed by my home at a stately twenty miles an hour, trailing a long line of cars and trucks nearly berserk with rage . . . and utterly buried my driveway with snow, to the aforementioned waist height. I knew perfectly well that there was nowhere else I could possibly park my car along that stretch of two-lane highway anywhere within even unreasonable walking distance of home in either direction--except the one driveway that I knew perfectly well the sonofabitching plow was about to stop and plow out, which it did. The one right next door to mine. The driveway of the Antichrist, where I would not have parked at gunpoint. Of course the traffic stacked up behind that big bastard surged forward the instant it fully entered Nyjmnckra Grtozkzhnyi's drive and got out of their way. Of course not one of them gave an instant's thought to the fact that the road under their accelerating tires would now no longer be cleared of snow and ice. And there I was, big as life, right in their way, with my forehead on the steering wheel . . . So by the time I got that snow in my pants, trying to clamber over the new dirty-white ridge that separated my home from civilization, I no longer had to worry about parking the car. Or fixing the damn heater, or putting gas or oil in it, or any such chores. Just paying for the final tow--and, of course, the rest of the payments to the bank. Needless to say, the only car in the whole pileup that had been totaled was mine; all the people who'd caused the accident drove away from the scene. And of course they'd all agreed it had been my fault. On the bright side, I was reasonably unhurt. Indeed, the only wound I had to boast of was an extremely red face. Not from anger, or even from the cold. Those goddam air bags are not soft. They never mention that in the ads. So I was not looking forward to going through my front door. In the first place, I hated having to tell Zoey that we were pedestrians again. A nursing mother does not often receive such news gladly--and especially not when the temperature outside is twenty below and nothing useful lies within walking range. And in the second place-- --in the second place I knew exactly what I was going to see when I walked--okay, hobbled--through that door. And I just didn't know if I could take it one more time. Is there anything sadder in all the world than a great big comfy superbly appointed tavern . . . so unmistakably empty and abandoned that the cobwebs everywhere have dust on them? I'd tried to keep up a brave front, and sustained it maybe six months. Then I'd gradually slacked off on the mopping and dusting and vacuuming and polishing. By the end of a year, I wasn't even fixing leaks. What was the point? No way in hell was Mary's Place ever going to reopen. We--I, Jake Stonebender, its proprietor, and all of my highly irregular clientele-had made the single, fatal mistake of pissing off Nyjmnckra Grtozkzhnyi. Our Ukrainian next-door neighbor--and the beloved only aunt of Jorjhk Grtozkzhnyi. Town Inspector Grtozkzhnyi . . . Have you ever seen the total stack of paperwork required to legally operate a tavern in the Town of Smithtown in the County of Suffolk in the great State of New York in these United States of America? I don't mean the liquor license: assume you have that. Let's just say if I'd had that stack of paperwork--all of it six-point type, and consisting mostly of blanks for me to fill in--in the trunk of the car with me that day, I could have just climbed up on top of it and stepped over that goddam heap of snow left in my driveway by one of Inspector Grtozkzhnyi's minions. In order to open Mary's Place at all, back in '88--in less than five years, for less than half a million dollars--I had been forced to run it outlaw, counting on its isolation and the fact that I made no effort at all to attract business to protect it from official attention. But as Bob Dylan forgot to say, "To live outside the law, you must be lucky." Excerpted from Callahan's Key by Spider Robinson All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.