I'm not even sure where to begin expessing how amazing I find this series and this book in particular - my favorite of the series. This world has two...moreI'm not even sure where to begin expessing how amazing I find this series and this book in particular - my favorite of the series. This world has two main cultural and geographic divings. The Inner Lands folks live in the center of the know world, and the setting is somewhat standard fantasy. In the Outskirts live nomadic communities who live a simpler life in a harsher environment.
The Steerswomen (or occaisonally steersmen) are a key group in this series; a steerswoman Rowan is the main character. They are lifelong students who travel the world to observe and study it. If asked a question, steerswomen must tell the truth, and anyone to whom they ask a question must do the same or be put under the steerswoman ban. Under ban, no steerswoman will answer even the simplest of questions, which can be a serious consequence in a society where the steerswomen are the gatherers and spreaders of knowledge. In fact, their role in society is so highly valued that it is custom to give them food and shelter for free. I have a soft spot for Rowan because I identify with her thirst for knowledge, her analytical mind, her textbook-like manner of explanation when a question is asked, and her sometimes stilted social skills.
In this book, we travel to the Outskirts and are able to learn about the culture and ecology of these people. Any able-bodied person in a warrior, protecting the tribe from potential attack from other tibes. In injury, old age, or mental inability, outskirters become mertutials, the people who cook, herd goats, or otherwise care for the tribe. Both warriors and mertutials are equally respected. Some evenings are filled with songs, poetry, and tales from a people of surprising intellectual sophistication for having been stereotyped as barbarians. I love outskirter culture, and I particularly love Bel, main character number two, best friend to Rowan, who is both fierce warrior and singer/poet. I would love to be more like her but sadly end up more like her literal, bookish counterpart.
The best thing about this series is following Rowan's investigation. Though this is a fantasy setting, it is clear from early on that there is some very sophisticated technology on this world that the common folk are not allowed to understand. Anything high-tech is labeled as magic, a catch-all cagegory for anything whose causes are not understood. Rowan, of course, will not rest until she does understand, and it is amazing to watch her mind wrap around concepts that are commonplace to us but far beyond anything she's ever dealt with. I also enjoy learning in this book about the unique ecological systems of the outskirts, which end up being an important piece of the puzzle. I don't think you necessarily have to love fantasy to get into this series because unlike most fantasy it plays to a broader type of audience. It is these unusual qualties that make the book stand out for me and that push it into my top 10 category.
The one drawback: most charcters are straight, which would be fine if I weren't already drowning in straight fantasy and in a world with a hetereosexual and gender normal paradigm. But again, as with Flewelling's books, there is not excessive differentiation between women and men main characters, which is a redeaming quality.(less)
I have to say that I do miss the Outskirts in this book, but in Inner Lands town of Alemeth takes on it's own unique personality with many amusing mom...moreI have to say that I do miss the Outskirts in this book, but in Inner Lands town of Alemeth takes on it's own unique personality with many amusing moments characteristic of a small gossipy community. I also miss Bel, but Alemeth comes through again with a local young man called Steffie, a new and endearing character. Steffie's though process and articulation can be slow and awkward, but his mind is steady and persistent to compensate. I have a particular fondness for him because my thought process can sometimes match his. It's nice to see a character where slowness and intelligence can go together. All around, the characters and story are lovely, two aspects of Kirstein's writing that I've come very much to appreciate. This book continues Rowan's investigation at the Archives in Alemeth as Rowan conducts research and makes discoveries that add more pieces to an increasingly large puzzle. The book ends with an unexpected and truly amazing cultural study, again showing that this is not your standard fantasy series. Rowan's observations are amazing, as is Kristein's construction of a new culture.(less)
Yes, I love this book, but I just have to say: could she choose a cheasier title? While the cover art and title indicate that you might be in for stan...moreYes, I love this book, but I just have to say: could she choose a cheasier title? While the cover art and title indicate that you might be in for standard fantasy cheese whiz, if you can get past the embarassment of carrying this book around, it's actually quite a good read. You might have to like fantasy adventure to be able to get into this, but the characters and relationships are great and the story's pretty gripping. Plus every time you blink, there's another queer character - such a nice change from standard fantasy with pretty standard sexuality and archaic gender roles. It may be true to the historic period, but for the love of pete, it's fiction and fantasy - we can create whatever kind of society we want in our minds - and expand our horizons of how things could be.(less)
Flewelling should stop at two. She develops excellent stories over her first two books, and the third one becomes long, drawn out, and considerably le...moreFlewelling should stop at two. She develops excellent stories over her first two books, and the third one becomes long, drawn out, and considerably less interesting. That being said, since I'm in love with the two main characters and their relationship, I can't help enjoying any book written about them. This one takes us into a somewhat stereotypical fantasy fairy land where the people are tall, fair, and long-lived. Despite that, we learn some interesting things about Aurenfaie culture, and Alec and Seregil have steamy gay sex here and there (which is never described in detail - you have to use your imagination).(less)
You don't have to be a sci-fi fan to love this book. It's a smoothe read and a page turner. It's easy to identify with main character Ender, which is...moreYou don't have to be a sci-fi fan to love this book. It's a smoothe read and a page turner. It's easy to identify with main character Ender, which is what makes this book accessible to anyone.(less)
I debated between a 3 and 4 on this book. The whole time I was reading the series, I was fascinated and bored at the same time. Kim Stanley Robinson g...moreI debated between a 3 and 4 on this book. The whole time I was reading the series, I was fascinated and bored at the same time. Kim Stanley Robinson gives a very realistic picture of the colonization of Mars beginning with the first hundred scientists, engineers, and other specialists who were selected to live on Mars. Everything from his descriptions of the clouds to his formula for transforming the atmosphere into something breathable are very accurate based on available information, and it was fascinating to read someone's best guess of how we would actually pull off the complicated project of settling Mars. Robinson switches to different charaters' perspectives throughout the story, not only developing a very interesting cast of characters, but also sprinkling information about the characters' specialty areas - psychology, engineering, planetology, economics, government etc - throught their narratives, again amazing me with his vast amount of knowledge. The characters are politically liberal and anti-corporate, and each book involves some type of revolution. The downside is that the writing is dry, but even with that drawback, I will likely re-read this trilogy at some point.(less)
again, this book was boring and fascinating at the same time. this is probably the most interesting of the three, as we are invited into life in the h...moreagain, this book was boring and fascinating at the same time. this is probably the most interesting of the three, as we are invited into life in the hidden colonies of the liberal, cooperative-minded, anti-corporate settlers of mars. we are also introduced to the first generation of native martians - the first children to be born on the planet. in this book, we see the fall of capitalism on mars and the rise of a new government created by the people, largely those living in the hidden colonies. a new system of co-op style economics is adopted where all the workers of a company eventually end up owing a share of it, so companies are owned and operated by the people. terraforming continues, to the dismay of the reds who love mars in its original barren and untamed state. the play of politics and societal factions is fascinating, and characters and relationships are as well-developed.(less)
i remember the least about this book. it had the same strange combination of fascinating and boring. there are some interesting social changes in the...morei remember the least about this book. it had the same strange combination of fascinating and boring. there are some interesting social changes in the second generation of martians. they are used to manipulating their world in monumental ways - creating oceans from underground frozen water, for example, or terraforming the atmosphere. preferences for sexual pleasure have taken some interesting turns, and flying is a popular sport, due in part to the lower gravity of the planet. also due to the gravity, native martians tend to be more tall and graceful and less muscular than their earthling counterparts. there is some speculation that they are becoming more androgynous as a species. the atmosphere is thin and cool, but the air is breathable. the generational paradigm changes were probably the most interesting part about this book.(less)