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BOTM THEMED > Sept 2018 THEMED Hellspark by Kagan

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message 1: by Teresa, Plan B is in Effect (new) - rated it 4 stars

Teresa Carrigan | 2715 comments Mod
The September 2018 Themed Pick is Hellspark by Janet Kagan Hellspark by Janet Kagan. The theme is First Contact Communications. Please use this thread to post questions, comments, and reviews, at any time.

Official description:
Lassti, a newly discovered planet, is the center of political intrigue. Recently, Oloitokitok, the planet survey team's physicist was found dead. Was he killed? If so, by whom? One of his fellow surveyors? Or by one of the Sprookjes, the birdlike natives of Lassti? Are the Sprookjes intelligent? If so, then parties that want the planet for development will lose it. Why is the survey team having so much trouble finding out? Into this situation arrives Tocohl, a Hellspark trader who just wanted to have a vacation on Sheveschke at the St. Veschke festival. After being attacked, rescuing a young woman, and going before a judge, Tocohl has learned all she ever wanted to know about being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Now she is on her way to find Lasti to find answers to the mysteries there.

message 2: by Teresa, Plan B is in Effect (new) - rated it 4 stars

Teresa Carrigan | 2715 comments Mod
I reread this one every couple of years, and look forward to rereading in September and discussing it.

The murder mystery part while crucial to the plot is only one small aspect of the story. There’s a lot of culture clashes, an extremely cute AI, a bizarre planetary ecology, a minor love interest, unforeseen consequences of well intended actions, etc.

Betsy | 904 comments Mod
Oh, goodie! Now I have an excuse to reread this.

message 4: by Teresa, Plan B is in Effect (new) - rated it 4 stars

Teresa Carrigan | 2715 comments Mod
I’ve started my reread. The Hellspark captain’s last name is Tocohl. The two most recent books in the Liaden Universe have a character named Tocohl. I’m sure that is a reference to Hellspark, since Sharon Lee says Hellspark is one of her favorite books.

I’m extremely impressed by the detailed world building, including the interaction between different cultures. And it’s given as the story progresses, not an info dump.

message 5: by Trike (new)

Trike | 615 comments I’m having cognitive dissonance with everyone calling it “fun” and “joyful”... yet the title has a grim’n’gritty feel.

message 6: by Teresa, Plan B is in Effect (last edited Sep 02, 2018 06:24AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Teresa Carrigan | 2715 comments Mod
I agree about the title. I avoided the book for years due to that title. And the prologue implies the book is grim as well.

Here’s a quote that isn’t a spoiler:
Why do they never volunteer a word? Tocohl wondered. Maggy volunteers information to the point of distraction. She smiled to herself at the thought. New definition of sapient: that which gives unsought advice.

message 7: by Teresa, Plan B is in Effect (new) - rated it 4 stars

Teresa Carrigan | 2715 comments Mod
I’m about halfway through my reread and enjoying it. My memories tend to focus on the non violent parts and skip the violent ones. Yes there was a human killed. There was an attempted kidnapping, attempted multiple murder, plus other violence that was unintentional consequences of (too much of a spoiler).

But what stands out in my memories are mostly scenes involving Maggie being cute or Tocohl being so very very Hellspark.

message 8: by Teresa, Plan B is in Effect (new) - rated it 4 stars

Teresa Carrigan | 2715 comments Mod
What constitutes profanity in various cultures make me giggle. Here’s one:
“Foot,” she said in a matching torrent of Jannisetti curses, “Heel. Sole. Toes, with green toenail polish!”

And the slang too:
“I only recognized the Sheveschkem ‘Cheap tattoos!’ but I’ll bet all the others were the same—whatever a waiter says to negotiate a crowd with a tray of hot dishes.”

Betsy | 904 comments Mod
One of my favorite parts of the book is the whole issue of proxemics and kinesics. I'm fascinated by language and linguistics, even studying it for a couple years post college, but those issues don't seem to be part of the linguistics curriculum. I don't know why, it seems to make so much common sense to me. And don't try to tell me we don't have those issues. I'm rather sensitive to "personal space" and I've seen how intrusions can impact a relationship. And we have lots of diverse cultures on this single planet and I'm sure they have differing rules and customs with respect to personal space and movement.

Betsy | 904 comments Mod
Maggy is one of my least favorite characters in the book. She's frequently very annoying. But I suspect she's annoying in the same way that a precocious human child often is. And she is an excellent way to demonstrate the issues involved in declaring sapience.

message 11: by Teresa, Plan B is in Effect (last edited Sep 03, 2018 05:10PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Teresa Carrigan | 2715 comments Mod
Agreed on the proxemics. And we do have cultures that have differing conversational distances. See which states that many European cultures converse at a closer distance than people in the US find comfortable.

Betsy | 904 comments Mod
One thing I enjoy -- sometimes -- about older books is seeing how they have become dated. Science fiction authors often spend a lot of effort on big tech. Self-aware extrapolative computers. FTL travel. Electric botany. (Okay, not "tech" but still ...) But they don't even try to update the everyday tech. It's amusing how the characters in this book are so dependent on "tapes" as media. It is so indicative of the late 80s when this book was written and when casette tapes and video tapes were still very big. But in reality it's the everyday tech that tends to change fastest. I still love this book, but I do think that's a minor failing.

Betsy | 904 comments Mod
What I do like about this book is it's creativity. So many space operas are very similar in terms of the tech, the politics, the environment, etc. The plot may be different and the characters, and that's fine, both of those are important elements, but I really enjoy the truly unique aliens and the weird ecology of Flashfever. Very imaginative.

Audrey | 346 comments Nearly a year later, and I am finally reading this book. Great so far. I kept thinking I recognized the name Tocohl, and then the light dawned that it was from the Liaden Universe when I saw the discussion, above. I love the worldbuilding, imaginative effort, and cultural communication snafus. Green toenails! LOL

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