My older sister is adamant about reading books in order, something I've never paid much attention to, but suddenly, I'm faced with exactly why she feeMy older sister is adamant about reading books in order, something I've never paid much attention to, but suddenly, I'm faced with exactly why she feels this way and it is very frustrating. I have just finished City of Pearl by Karen Traviss, a debut novel of exceptional quality that has the complexity of characters and themes that first drew me to sociological science fiction and keeps pulling me back. Now I swear only coincidence led the first two books I mention to include ecological themes, but while Gods Old and Dark touched on the theme, City of Pearl is steeped in it.
The story starts out with an EnHaz (Environmental Hazard Enforcement) officer ready to retire who is given an offer that she can't refuse--or remember thanks to a technology called Suppressed Briefing which is a chemical "need to know" memory suppressant. She agrees to travel 75 years in cold storage with a team of marines and scientists to find out what happened to a religious group that attempted to colonize a distant planet, taking with them a genetic storage of all the unique plants and animals on Earth with the intention of recolonizing Earth after Armageddon.
You learn most if not all of that in the first few chapters, a set up rife with enough conflict to keep anyone happy. Does Karen Traviss leave it there? Of course not. Not only are there multiple types of aliens on the planet each with very specific agendas and unique philosophies, but the humans are living happily in the equivalent of a zoo. And that's not telling it all, but I'm stopping here with the plot and story hints because I think I've said enough to pique your interest.
What I will say is that the characters are real, their backgrounds affect who they are and why they behave the way they do, and they're not always right. They have both fallibilities and a strength of purpose that drew me in. The planet is complex, the people are more so and the conflicts are all plausible. The enemy isn't always obvious either because of conflicts between perspectives and moments of weakness that have consequences I could both see and hope would not come about. In case my description didn't make it clear, this is not a pure entertainment, adrenalin-rush, 2-hour read. Her language is approachable and comprehension was never an issue, but I read this book slower even than my normal crawl because there was so much to absorb and I didn't want to miss a bit. This is my method of reading, but another equivalent would be to say this is the type of book that has enough depth to be read again and again. Each time you would find another telling phrase or something that you missed the first time through.
Oh, and in case you're curious, I read the second book first, Crossing the Line, because I was selected as an advanced reader. I've been signing up for the book lottery every month at several publishers. It's a good way to be exposed to new authors or genres you wouldn't normally read and though I haven't been chosen in a while, the effort led to Karen Traviss, making it definitely worth while. I read the second book, recognized the skill and how I enjoyed the way she writes. Took me a while, but then I picked up City of Pearl and, though her first novel-length published work, it has not disappointed me at all. The only disappointment I felt was that in coming to the end, I'd already read the next one. However, I just went to her website, http://www.karentraviss.com/ , and discovered she has a third coming soon :).
For those who are curious, here's my reader review:
Crossing the Line is an intensely complex novel told in a direct, approachable manner that drew me right in. It twines the lives of five different species, each with both unique and familiar traits, showing where common interests and desires can lead to conflict and disaster both within and between species. I've never read Karen Traviss before but I plan to find her first novel, City of Pearl, just to experience the history of these characters in her own words. That said, this novel stands alone, not requiring anything more than you'll find between the covers. It sparks a desire to know the past and future of those characters introduced in this book merely because they become real, each with their own desires, failings and needs. I will certainly put her on my list of authors I seek out and keep track of. It's a pleasure to find another author along the lines of C.J. Cherryh, who explores aliens neither as carbon copies of humans nor cardboard cutouts and who takes the time to generate a full philosophy and approach to life that is coherent, cohesive, and distinctive. ...more
Iron Man 2 may be the first novelization of a screenplay that I have read, and as an introduction, I think it was quite a good one. I m an old time coIron Man 2 may be the first novelization of a screenplay that I have read, and as an introduction, I think it was quite a good one. I m an old time comic book reader, and I ve gone to every comic-based movie that I can, including the first Iron Man, so when LibraryThing.com had some review copies of Iron Man 2, I signed up. I wasn t sure what to expect though, because I hadn t read a comic-book to screenplay to novel before, as I said, and I was concerned that the feel of a comic book would be lost in a novel, or that it would not appeal.[return][return]Face it. Most comic books, especially the old Marvel Comics which originally brought Iron Man to life, have a larger than life aura that defeats efforts to constrain them to the expectations of life. It s big, beautiful, brutal, life on the edge and without any sign of social conformity. Very few comic book heroes are people I d enjoy having in my life. They tend to be arrogant, obsessed, driven, and so totally focused that the details which make life livable are just cast aside as unimportant. What that means is that if you re not the super powered or gadgeted hero, you become something less than an appendage and more like an inconvenience. And none of that changes the fact that within a comic book, these stories are compelling, inspiring, and just work.[return][return]When they first started making comic book movies, ignoring the Superman franchise, of course, a lot of people thought that transition wouldn t make it to the big screen. The roaring success of these movies, and how those involved transformed paper images into a full-featured show, left readers like me stunned. These obnoxious people were conveyed in such a way that once again inspired and compelled, while maintaining their true characters. That didn t stop me from wondering if the same feel could make it back to paper without losing something in the translation. Frankly, the idea of spending some 300 pages with an arrogant megalomaniac had me nervous.[return][return]Let me reassure on both those counts.[return][return]Irvine manages to capture the same feel as the comic books (something quite similar to men s adventure) while not alienating me as a reader. In fact, I was thrilled by some of the lines, and appreciated the balance between the outward and inward lives of the characters.[return][return]He manages this balance in part by using multiple points of view, some of which are known and familiar, while others, including the villain, a mirror image of Tony Stark himself, are new to me. While there are some moments when I m feeling the oh come on part of hanging out with someone as arrogant as Stark, or when the sheer lack of honest and open communication makes me want to slap the characters, these same moments are very much in character. And the consequences are real and plausible.[return][return]Not only that, but Irvine has captured how Stark thinks in a beautiful way that opens a window into that kind of genius. While there s no way I m going to turn around and build myself a flying machine, nor am I so naive as Stark who continues to protest that the Iron Man suit is not a military weapon while he s flying around stopping the bad guys with the suit, I have a touch of that kind of focused problem solving, and I can tell you the portrayal is spot on.[return][return]Which segues nicely into a couple sentences I just had to pull out to say wow. I hope they work as well out of context, and give you a taste of the skill at which this tale is undertaken (Note that there are minor spoilers):[return][return]This is from his first meeting with the villain, when he s using a smaller version of the Iron Man suit that he s still testing out:[return][return]If he d been in the Mark IV, everything would have been fine. But in the Mark V, he had a fight on his hands. & It was like instant coffee if the Mark IV was Jamaica Blue Mountain; all it did was make you wish for the real thing.[return][return]And an illustration of the sense of genius I was talking about:[return][return]For a moment Rhodey had a daydream of how this same presentation would be going if it was Tony Stark doing the pitch. & Because Tony was an engineer at heart rather than a businessman, he spoke the language of the barely possible, the thing that could be done if the brain could be stretched enough to see the way to do it.[return][return]It should be clear that I enjoyed the book. It s a fun ride, and definitely a candy-type book.[return][return]That said, there were some weaknesses I wish could have been handled better. The biggest one was how the story had too much going on for so short a book. While I understand that some of the threads may be introduced to set the stage for Iron Man 3, it seemed a little much for so many huge happenings to occur in the same short time span when they were completely unrelated. Since details would require major spoilers and I try to avoid that, let me just say that there were three main plots going on, ignoring the ongoing relationship issues between Pepper and Tony, and though they crossed over every once in a while, I felt there was a little too much popping up when needed going on to make that happen. I d have preferred a little more foreshadowing and prior integration to bring these things together smoothly.[return][return]And the other is a continuity error, which is something that drives me nuts. The end is dependent on something happening with the suits that logically should not have been possible because of the way the suits are designed around Tony. Now, with Stark the way he is, I can see it happening, but why not mention that he s done so, in his head at least. And how is it that Rhodey knew it was even a possibility? I m curious if any of you who end up reading this noticed the same thing, but I m hoping my comments here are intriguing but without spoilers.[return][return]Anyway, yes, I had quibbles, but my walk away was pure enjoyment. If I let quibbles taint my reads, I d never enjoy anything. If you like the comic book over the top feel, Iron Man 2 offers that and more. It s not a deep think by any means, but it has its moments, and they all add up to fun....more
Warrior Wisewoman 3 edited by Roby James is an anthology of science fiction stories focused around strong female characters. These characters may notWarrior Wisewoman 3 edited by Roby James is an anthology of science fiction stories focused around strong female characters. These characters may not be the lead, and the definition of strength is a broad one, opening the potential for a wide variety of interesting tales.
As with most anthologies, some stories resonated with me more than others, but none of the included tales jarred me, which is not always the case. A few of the stories that stood out for me (in order of appearance) are listed below, along with a note as to why with every effort to keep from spoilers.
The Race by Jennifer R. Povey
Though the wisdom I see is in the sister rather than the main character, the story is a compelling read about competition and what the race to win can cost. The main character matures on the page, and the conclusion worked for me.
The Envoy by Al Onia
Unlike The Race, The Envoy is strongly thematic. Like many of the stories in this collection, Onia’s tale deals with the resolution of war through a central female character, but it also explores the sense of self and how the greater good can be worth more than the individual, even when that greater good is of people with whom the individual has not direct relationship.
Bearer of Burdens by Melissa Mead
This story is told from a male point of view, and the thematic character is presented as a victim and a horrifying image at first. As the tale develops, though, the main character comes to love and respect her. Still, ultimately, he fails to understand until it’s too late, but within that understanding, the reader comes to see the world through more complex eyes. Similarly to The Envoy, the choices made by the thematic character are not those traditionally supported in Western culture, but the way the story builds to them makes her decisions better than what appears to be the story’s path.
The Truth One Sees by Kathy Hurley
The saying “I won’t believe it until I see it with my own eyes” influences much of Western culture and how people perceive the world. This story looks at a case where the truth is unseen, and if known, would be misunderstood with disastrous consequences. The main character educates under the mask of a fortune teller, hoping to get the chance to teach those with the power to harm that instead they should look for peace.
There were many others–as I said, I didn’t dislike any of the stories–but these should give you a taste of what you’d find in the anthology. Of course you might have listed the other stories first over this lot because tastes differ. On the whole, this anthology touched on issues of culture clash, finding peace in odd places and odd ways, and how humanity leaps first then suffers the consequences. These are themes I appreciate, and the blend of stories that used them without seeming repetitious offered an enjoyable read.