This is one of many books that I read back in high school and never found them again outside of a library. I can remember details about them, like the...moreThis is one of many books that I read back in high school and never found them again outside of a library. I can remember details about them, like the plot or a character or three, but couldn’t recall the author’s name or title if I tried. So, cut to when I’m reading Eon, get to the author bio and go “Holy crap, Allison Goodman wrote Singing the Dogstar Blues? I remember that book!” And then I found it in Barnes & Noble and had to pick up a copy.
The reason why I really like this book: Joss. Joss Joss Joss. Strong biracial female main character who has fantastic taste in music and doesn’t succumb into a weepy mess? Yes. It’s a strange comparison to make, but Joss Aaronson is a more awesome version of Hitchhiker’s Random Dent. Joss has a reputation for being a troublemaker, but we get why she’s so angry at adults and it doesn’t feel like overt angst or whining. Her mother wants to use Joss for publicity, especially after Mavkel picks Joss for a partner; Joss hasn’t spoken to the only adult she’s felt close to in years; however, she still manages to create her own family, even if most people would consider them to be weirdos and lowlifes. And even though a chunk of the story is centered around the identity of Joss’s father, I love that Joss never loses her identity and is strong. She’s fantastic.
Similarly, I love Mavkel. Sidetracking into the world-building a bit, I like that while the Chorians are humanoid, they’re still freaky to look at, with the double mouths and everything. I kinda like that Mav keeps unnerving Joss by just smiling, even after they become friends. (Also, he has really expressive ears. Mav reminds me of a big black Labrador at times.) And he’s got his own way of being a troublemaker.
And what I love about these two is that they’re two lonely kids who manage to find each other. Some of the circumstances surrounding Joss’s perfect harmony with Mav are a little out of left field, but that’s another point entirely. Joss is continually reminded that she’s not good enough for the rich kids who attend her school; Mav was expected to die when his twin did. And their friendship is awkward at first, but then they start trusting one another. (My edition also has the short story “The Real Thing,” which goes into the complexities of Joss and Mav’s connection. It adds a lot to their relationship.) I like these two, I want to find out more about their adventures in the Centre for Neo-Historical Studies and Joss teaching Mav about the blues.
I really like the first part of the major plot in the book, with Joss conducting spy work of her own to figure out if her partnership with Mav means if one or both of them are in danger. I like the mystery of who the assassin Tori Suka is after and how does Joss and Mav’s admittance to the Centre have to do with founder Daniel Sunawa-Harrod’s legacy. But there’s two parts where the plot stalls. I kinda don’t like the plot detail that the reason why Mav’s getting sick and might die is because Joss doesn’t know the identity of her father and then that becomes so much of the plot. I really felt like Joss didn’t need to know who her father was to become ‘complete.’ I don’t mind the reveal of who it is, but it feels less powerful that yes, she knows who her father is and there she and Mav can join together. (However, the reveal that the reason Joss inexplicably has Chorian DNA as a result of Mav sneezing on her petri dish when they go back in time? I like that—it’s ridiculous and clichéd, but the fact that Joss realizes how ridiculous it is works.) There’s also a subplot about implant AIDS that really only serves as how Sunawa-Harrod dies. It doesn’t really go anywhere, and it feels like Goodman just stuck it in to make an arbitrary point. (An important one, but arbitrary to the rest of the novel.)
Despite my issues, this is still a really fun read. Joss and Mav are both fantastic, and their characterization shines through the weak points in the plot. And even with the weak points, it’s still a good, rollicking light sci-fi read. If you’re a fan of the Eon duology, it’s worth checking this one out. (less)