Julie Czerneda is not an author whom I follow regularly. But she has been on my radar ever since reading A Thousand Words for Stranger several many yeJulie Czerneda is not an author whom I follow regularly. But she has been on my radar ever since reading A Thousand Words for Stranger several many years ago. I read Survival, the first book in the Species Imperative series, when it came out and enjoyed it well enough. By the time Migration, book two, came along, I was reading other things and never found the time or inclination to continue. Recently, DAW issued the entire series in this omnibus volume, offered by the Science Fiction Book Club, and – the stars being favorable – I decided to complete my reading.
A brief summary: Sometime in the future, Earth has become a member of the Interspecies Union, a galaxy-wide association of aliens held together by the Sinzi, who control the transect technology that makes FTL travel possible. While interspecies relations are never easy, the situation appears stable and there are no threats on the horizon. In the Solar system, heavy industries and much of the population have moved off Earth, allowing the planet to begin recovering from the ravages of the Industrial Age.
Things are never so simple, of course; otherwise we wouldn’t have a novel. Along one of the transects that pass through the Solar system, there is a region of space called the Chasm, where every potentially life-bearing world has been scoured of all organic life. No current space-faring species knows who, why or how this occurred but recently similar scourings have been happening on worlds along the transect.
All this is of little concern to our heroine Mackenzie Connor (Mac), a marine biologist whose primary (read – sole) focus is “salmon.” She’s co-administrator of a research station on the northwest Pacific coast of North America and has neither plans nor desire to be anything else.
Her “perfect world” is rudely interrupted by the arrival of Brymn, a Dhryn archaeologist, who insists that her knowledge of migration patterns is crucial to solving the mystery of the Chasm and the survival his race. Mac is furious at this intrusion and dubious about her importance in the matter but before these questions can be explored, the research station is attacked and Mac’s closest friend, Emily Mamani, is kidnapped by a xenophobic species called the Ro. An enemy so terrifying to the Dhryn that they become catatonic when in their presence.
Survival ends with some startling revelations about the Dhryn and their relationship to the Ro, as well as equally startling discoveries about Emily and her actual relationship to these enigmatic enemies. Migration continues the story, with Mac focusing on getting Emily back from the Ro. And Regeneration completes the arc with a final confrontation with the xenophobes (view spoiler)[and redemption for the Dhryn (hide spoiler)].
As other reviewers have mentioned, there’s a lot of filler. Some of the side trips are useful. Such as the aside when Mac visits her family’s cabin and meets Kay (a Trisulian) and Fourteen (a Myg), two aliens whose presence then and later prove essential to the story. Other subplots are less so. The weakest is the romance between Mac and Nikolai Trojanowski (Nik), a covert agent of Earthgov and sometimes the IU. It’s such a staid, by-the-numbers, boring relationship that it brings everything to a shuddering halt whenever the reader has to slog through the couple’s all-too-cute repartee. You could excise the entire romantic subplot and lose nothing in the story-telling. If Czerneda really had to include a romance, I wish she would have pursued one between Mac and Emily. That’s a relationship that could have had energy, and would have been more interesting than what we got.
Clichéd romance aside, when Czerneda focuses on her story – the existential threat to the IU and Mac’s role in resolving it – the pacing is good, the plot interesting, and it mostly makes up for the novel’s weaknesses. I think the author does a particularly good job of conveying the “alienness” of her aliens. She can’t always fully develop these traits but she does well with making the Dhryn and Sinzi, for example, not just humans with forehead prostheses. (view spoiler)[On the other hand, the Ro are one-dimensional, moustache-twirling villains who should have been more nuanced, like the Dhryn or the Trisulians (who tend to act like sociopathic scavengers from a human perspective but are still convincingly portrayed by Czerneda). (hide spoiler)]
I’m on the fence as to recommending these books. If you’re already familiar with Czerneda’s work, and like it, you’ll like these books. If not, she’s not a good enough author (IMO) to get enthusiastic about.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Caveat: I have not picked up a Game of Thrones novel since #4 back in 2006, right before the notorious hiatus between that and volume five. Even beforCaveat: I have not picked up a Game of Thrones novel since #4 back in 2006, right before the notorious hiatus between that and volume five. Even before then, however, I was growing bored with the series. There wasn’t anyone I really cared about in the cast except for Arya and Jon, and they hardly ever got any “screen time.” And Martin wasn’t exploiting any of the nonmundane elements of his world, like the erratic weather or the wildlings beyond the Wall.
I also haven’t watched a single episode of the TV series, and don’t plan to.
So why – even before I’ve finished this book – am I giving The World of Ice and Fire: The Untold History of Westeros and the Game of Thrones four stars?
Simply because I live for reference books like this and I am very much enjoying reading it.
I have reference works for Terry Brooks’ Shannara, Howard’s Hyboria, Glen Cook’s Black Company world, M.A.R. Barker’s Tekumel (2 versions, the original edition and the revamped), Jordan’s Wheel of Time world, Herbert’s Dune, Peter Hamilton’s Confederation universe, Lucas’ Star Wars universe and Burrough’s Barsoom, as well as several RPG-related worlds like The Forgotten Realms, among others. My favorite part of the Lord of the Rings is the appendices in The Return of the King; and I love the section in R. Scott Bakker’s The Thousandfold Thought that explores his world’s history, philosophies and characters.
And speaking of Tolkien, I have an entire shelf devoted to the 10-volume History of Middle-earth, edited by his son.
I bought the board game based on C.J. Cherryh’s Union/Alliance universe in order to get the back grounder on its history.
Have I mentioned all the Star Trek-related back grounders I’ve accumulated over the decades?*
Suffice it to say that this book was guaranteed at least three stars. It gets four because of the gorgeous artwork, and I’m giving Martin credit for putting a good deal of thought into Westeros. It’s obviously something he’s devoted a lot of creative energy to.
If you’re a fan of the series (both TV and print), than this might be a nice complement to your reading though not an essential buy. Unless – like me – you simply enjoy reading encyclopedias about imaginary worlds, then this is a “must have,” regardless of your opinion about the series.
Personal fun fact: Inspired by Tolkien, at the age of 14 (i.e., nearly 35 years ago) I began creating a world of my own and have been fiddling with it ever since: languages, histories, cultures, personalities, the works. It’s gone through several evolutions, and will continue to do so till the day I die, and I am rather proud of it. It’s books like The World of Ice and Fire that keep me going back to add more texture and flavor (and – yes – I’ve shamelessly stolen ideas from others, though I like to think that I’ve sufficiently altered them to forestall any copyright issues in the unlikely event that any of my ruminations see print).
* I’ve got the the Star Fleet Medical Reference manual so if anyone catches Vegan chorio-meningitis or Rigellian fever, call me....more
Overall, this collection of "constellation"-themed stories is OK, and none rate more than three stars in my opinion.
"A Heritage of Stars" - Eric BrownOverall, this collection of "constellation"-themed stories is OK, and none rate more than three stars in my opinion.
"A Heritage of Stars" - Eric Brown - This one starts out well enough about a near-future where aliens have given humans immortality and how that might affect the relationship between two people. Brown drops the ball, however, ending the story with a sappy, feel-good resolution that could have been much more interesting.
"Rats of the System" - Paul McAuley - This is an episode from a time when humanity is divided between interstellar colonies established after AIs took over Earth and humans who have made those AIs gods and are bent on destroying the infidel. (The AIs apparently take no notice of this, going about the galaxy doing their inexplicable things. On the plus side, they're good enough to leave human-colonized stars alone and only work with uninhabited systems.) The story in itself is good. McAuley is an accomplished writer and I've enjoyed what I've read of him but this feels like a chapter in a longer book and leaves the reader hanging.
"Star!" - Tony Ballantyne - A tale about a human who wants to be a star and the AI who helps her out.
"Lakes of Light" - Stephen Baxter - An episode from Baxter's Xeelee future history.
"No Cure for Love" - Roger Levy - An elliptical tale about a man who may or may not have caused civilization to collapse.
"The Navigator's Children" - Ian Watson - A decent story about a future where humans have learned that we're all part of a simulation (a la The Matrix) and the navigator of the title - who has serious issues with children and dolls - inadvertently reconfigures reality.
"A Different Sky" - Keith Brooke - A tale of alien abduction.
"The Fulcrum" - Gwyneth Jones - This story reminded me of Frederik Pohl's Gateway books.
"The Meteor Party" - James Lovegrove - Except for meteors, there's nothing particularly SF about this story. Instead, it's a meditation on the place of humans and their worries compared to the universe.
"Written in the Stars" - Ian McDonald - This is another story that raised some intriguing ideas but ultimately left me wanting more. In this future, astrology works - people receive daily horoscopes that guide their lives, and one day the hero of our story gets the wrong one.
"The Order of Things" - Adam Roberts - Competently written if not overly memorable tale about a future ruled by a theocracy that believes its God-given mandate is to make the world conform to its ideas of what He wants - both physically and mentally.
"The Little Bear" - Justina Robson - This is a story about quantum mechanics, teleportation and alternate worlds.
"Kings" - Colin Greenland - This is an allegory based on the Three Wise Men of the Christian Bible.
"Beyond the Aquila Rift" - Alistair Reynolds - I enjoyed this story the most. Humans have discovered and are using an alien network of (what may be) wormholes to colonize our nearby stellar neighborhood. Occasionally, however, a mistake occurs and a ship finds itself far from its intended destination. This is a story of a crew that finds itself a long, long way from home.
Not a bad collection but not one that stands out. If any of the authors mentioned above are favorites, you might want to check this book out (and I mean that literally; I wouldn't lay down money for this)....more
I picked up this novel from the library shelf on impulse.
But I can't finish it. It's not that the writing is bad, which is why I've given it two starsI picked up this novel from the library shelf on impulse.
But I can't finish it. It's not that the writing is bad, which is why I've given it two stars. Usually, if I can't finish a book, it gets one star. But there's nothing here that's engaging me on any level, and I don't want to waste my time with it when I have so much on my shelf that promises to be more interesting.
Obviously, I'm not recommending The Drowning City but I wouldn't want to deter anyone from reading it. It may be just the thing for some reader....more