I’ve shared in the past about my quest to read all the Hugo Award winners for best novel. Welp, I recently checked out and read They’d Rather Be Right by Mark Clifton and Frank Riley – the second winner of the award back in 1955.
They’d Rather Be Right was a short science fiction classic. The premise was incredibly clever, though I was confused by the main characters motivations – why did Joe care about Bosssy? Was he only trying to make someone like him? What made him think Bossy could do that? How did he figure so many things out that other characters couldn’t?
Lots of questions. But for me at least, those hardly made reading They’d Rather Be Right less enjoyable. I know that many others haven’t had the same experience – some have even called this work by Mark Clifton and Frank Riley the worst Hugo Award winning novel in the history of the award. Many of the critiques I’ve read say that Clifton and Riley were lazy – they didn’t do the work to make the science in the story believable.
I guess I see where they’re coming from. As hard sci-fi They’d Rather Be Right doesn’t do it for me. But as soft science fiction: I loved it. The simple idea that a person’s pride is their downfall, that someone’s need to be right is what prevents progress, is so good and done very well in this work. I also enjoyed the commentary on social classes and on scientific responsibility.
Other than that, all I have to say is it was a quick read, and there many of the characters were endearing. Could it be better? Yes. Did I enjoy it? Yes. Did I love the questions it asked? DEFINITELY YES.