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The Snow Queen (The Snow Queen Cycle, #1)
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Book Discussions > The Snow Queen by Joan D. Vinge

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message 1: by [deleted user] (last edited Jan 31, 2015 07:50PM) (new)

This is our February Classic SF Novel discussion of...


The Snow Queen (The Snow Queen Cycle, #1) by Joan D. Vinge The Snow Queen by Joan D. Vinge

Winner of the Hugo Award for best novel, 1981 (and Nebula Award nominee).


message 2: by Mike (last edited Feb 01, 2015 11:34AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Mike Wilson | 113 comments Hello all! I'm excited to read the story of The Snow Queen which is loosely based on Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale sharing the same title. I have never read this and am about 100 pages in, there is a lot afoot on planet Tiamat with it's divided people, the Winters and the Summers.


message 3: by Ben (new)

Ben Rowe (benwickens) | 429 comments It sounds like it would be my cup of tea so I plan to give this a try over the next few days.


Mike Wilson | 113 comments I hope Moon & Sparks are distant cousins. Lol!
On a serious note I have been impressed with Vinge's world building in this novel and so far story is quite good.
Anyone else has any first impressions?


Aleah (aleahmarie) I recently finished. I was disappointed with the character development, it seemed stilted. I don't want to say much more for those who have yet to read the book...

The world that Vinge created is interesting and kept me engaged in the story. I just would have liked more world and less oddly sporadic character growth.


message 6: by [deleted user] (new)

When I finally got around to acquiring this I discovered the book is been out of print for some time (and doesn't have a e-book edition, although several sequels do.) Rather than hunting for a deteriorating used copy (or an overpriced collectable: B&N lists a new copy @$195 !), I decided to use one of my Audible credits for the audiobook edition (Which is surprisingly long at 22 hours at unaccelerated playback speed.)

(And a mea culpa, I should have checked availability before the voting began, just so people knew.)

I'm just getting started. Also, I won't know how to spell anything. :(


message 7: by Mike (last edited Feb 02, 2015 06:07PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Mike Wilson | 113 comments Oh wow! I usually check this by doing a quick check on Amazon it had listed all in all kinds of formats but after you posted this I went back and did a double checked when i selected the ebook format it takes you to the Hans Christian Andersen fairytale version.
So my fault as well.


Aleah (aleahmarie) Might try your public library. (I'm a librarian, so that's generally my first line of defense.) We don't own The Snow Queen in my library system, but we have borrowing agreements with lots of other library systems and I snagged it that way.


message 9: by Matt (last edited Feb 02, 2015 04:10PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Matt | 6 comments I borrowed my copy from the library. Overall, I liked this novel. As others have said, the world building was well done. I liked the story for about the first 150 pages then it seemed to drag on (especially the ending.) I'm glad that I read it though.


message 10: by Mike (new) - rated it 3 stars

Mike Wilson | 113 comments I bought a pristine used physical copy from Amazon for $4.00 so it's not that hard to find


Andreas | 677 comments Just started it. I wonder how much it borrows from the Anderson tale. As far as I remember, the boy is chosen in Anderson's, but here it is Moon, the girl. Can't say much further because I only read a couple of pages.
Names are a bit silly ("Moon", "Spark"), but I like the flow - it is not very difficult to turn the pages :)


message 12: by [deleted user] (new)

The world of Tiamat (I guess named for the Sumerian ocean goddess/creator, because it's mostly a water planet) reminds me of two familiar space opera tropes:

- The backwater colony planet where interstellar traders drop in at a limited number of spaceports, with technological restrictions on imports. Moonsinger comes to mind, or Grass.

- The colony planet where orbital mechanics cause massive changes at regular but multi-generational intervals. Pern comes to mind (or the more recent The Three-Body Problem.)


Andreas | 677 comments I hope it doesn't develop into a horror novel like Grass :) But it feels more like a Science Fantasy setting like Pern than a Science Fiction with only technological restrictions. But this is only an impression, I'm not too deep in the novel.

I planned reading this in parallel to City of Stairs. But I have to confess that I'm magically sucked into City of Stairs which is a 5* read to me. So, I'll be back later :)


message 14: by [deleted user] (new)

Andreas wrote: "Just started it. I wonder how much it borrows from the Anderson tale. As far as I remember, the boy is chosen in Anderson's, but here it is Moon, the girl...."

I'm only about halfway in, but I think it's actually the boy, Sparks, who, like Andersen's Kai, been "taken" by the Snow Queen and turned towards evil, while it's Moon, like Gerda, whose going through a series of adventures to find him. The parallels are not absolute, (They each have their own "robber girl" character) but it's closer than Frozen. :)



Andreas wrote: "I planned reading this in parallel to City of Stairs. But I have to confess that I'm magically sucked into City of Stairs which is a 5* read to me...."

Can't argue with that. City of Stairs was one my favorite 2014 books.


message 15: by Mike (new) - rated it 3 stars

Mike Wilson | 113 comments So far if there was one flaw I saw, it may be that Moon seems too perfect – everyone seems to love her, she showed kindness to those she had every reason to hate, she was beautiful, she never stopped caring for Sparks even when he could be a bit of a jerk, she fulfilled her lifelong dream of becoming a sybil and she attained special knowledge. Other than Moon, the other characters who had their time in the limelight I have enjoyed reading about every single one of them.


message 16: by Aleah (last edited Feb 05, 2015 05:14PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Aleah (aleahmarie) I was very disappointed with the Sparks/Moon love fiasco -- particularly when (view spoiler) Blech. Also, they're first cousins, yes? That equals incest and a double blech from me, thankyouverymuch. Those details may both be remnants from Andersen's story? I'm embarrassed to say that I've never read it. In any case, it's not my cup of trope.

But I'm with you, Mike, regarding the other characters. Vinge did include some interesting characters elsewhere in the story and the world building had serious potential.

I have City of Stairs in my book pile. Sounds like I should get to reading!


message 17: by Andreas (last edited Feb 05, 2015 11:13PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Andreas | 677 comments Aleah wrote: "Also, they're first cousins, yes? That equals incest and a double blech from me"

That is a very interesting remark. I'm just curious what cultural background you're coming from: Most countries don't regulate sexual relationship or marriage between cousins at all, in some regions like North Africa it is actually the preferred form (I think it has to do with Islam). Even in catholic church it is possible for cousins to marry with a bishop's dispensation.
But this special case of cousin relationship isn't in our world but a fantasy setting where people might have completely different opinions.
Yes, one might disregard a fiction because its content doesn't conform to one's own ethics - sexual relationships like homosexuality or incest are just two forms of taboos they might break.

The original fairy tale from Andersen didn't have cousin relationships involved - the two kids were only neighbors. I don't know why they had to be cousins in Vinge's tale.


Aleah (aleahmarie) Well, now I feel all culturally insensitive... which stinks. My daily aspiration is quite the opposite, I promise! I'm from the U.S., southern Missouri. And first cousin marriages are certainly frowned upon here. In fact, I believe they're illegal. It was a plot point that I found disconcerting and had difficulty getting past.


message 19: by [deleted user] (new)

Aleah wrote: "first cousin marriages are certainly frowned upon here..."

If it makes you feel better, they aren't really cousins, they just think they are. Remember Moon is really a clone of Arienrhod. (That's pretty well established in the prologue, so I didn't bother spoilering it.)


message 20: by [deleted user] (new)

Aleah wrote: "I have City of Stairs in my book pile. Sounds like I should get to reading!"

Maybe you, Andreas & I can do a discussion of City of Stairs when you get to it. As long as we're all reading it anyway. Andreas?


message 21: by Ben (new)

Ben Rowe (benwickens) | 429 comments City of stairs would be a good pick for a month - but an extra pick would be good - I would at least try a sample.

In terms of Snow Queen this is a book that had I been able to get a digital sample (Ebook is coming soon in UK anyway) I probably wouldnt have bothered with. At the moment it is ticking several aspects of writing that irritate me and incline me to put a book down namely:-

1- Prologues - I appreciate some stories need them but I find them both overused and generally dont like them. They are worse for me than big infodumps at the start of a book

2- Names of characters are annoying - Andreas already commented on this

3- Not gelling with the writing style - it seems a bit of description for description sake at times done in a way that requires extra effort to work out what is going on without seeming to serve the themes or narrative. And not quite enjoying the way it is written. Lots of genre (crime too) books start off with a bit of fancy description - as though the author is saying - LOOK this book deserves your attention it is WORTHY - then drops for more naturalistic writing a few pages in. Not familiar enough with Vinge to comment further and it is entirely possible that the writing style will grow on me - sometimes it just takes a while to get used to the way an author writes.

These are all very shallow critisisms and many of my favorite books have all of these elements in them so, having a copy, I will read on further.

In terms of the spoilery stuff about their relationship I need to read much more to comment.


Andreas | 677 comments Aleah wrote: "Well, now I feel all culturally insensitive... which stinks. My daily aspiration is quite the opposite, I promise! I'm from the U.S., southern Missouri. And first cousin marriages are certainly fro..."

I didn't want you to feel bad at all!
Interestingly there is a map talking about regulations in each of the U.S. states. Missouri is clearly on the non-liberal side of things, first cousin marriages aren't allowed there. Sexual relationships are no criminal offense there like in some other States. I found it interesting that the distribution doesn't seem to have anything to do with the Bible Belt.

Now tell me: What are Missouri regulations on clone relationships? :D


G33z3r wrote: "Maybe you, Andreas & I can do a discussion of City of Stairs when you get to it."
It's currently read in no less than two other groups in parallel. I usually discuss books while reading along. Its a bit difficult for me to motivate myself when I finished reading and I'm already at the glorious next book. I don't know if I'll bite the bullet when Ben brings it up as BotM for April.


message 23: by [deleted user] (last edited Feb 07, 2015 06:19AM) (new)

Ben wrote: "1- Prologues - I appreciate some stories need them but I find them both overused and generally dont like them. They are worse for me than big infodumps at the start of a book..."

Prolog: Not really sure how different a prologue is from a first chapter other than the name.

Chapter 1: I usually find a prolog provide the author a convenient way of signaling they are providing a tidbit from some other place or time than the main story focus. In this case it just seems to let Vinge throw the "clone" plot out there early, rather than having it be a Big Surprise later.

Chapter 2: I can imagine a different telling of the story In which this tidbit is held back, leaving us to wonder why Arienrhod is so interested in Moon, making it more of a suspense/mystery. Wonder how that would be better or worse?


message 24: by [deleted user] (last edited Feb 07, 2015 06:19AM) (new)

Andreas wrote: "G33z3r wrote: "Maybe you, Andreas & I can do a discussion of City of Stairs when you get to it."
It's currently read in no less than two other groups in parallel. I usually discuss books while reading ..."


OK, Bad Idea, then. As Emily Litella says, Nevermind.


message 25: by [deleted user] (new)

Aleah wrote: "I was very disappointed with the Sparks/Moon love fiasco -- particularly when [spoilers removed] Blech...."

I think that spoiler is also a Country & Western song. :)


message 26: by Ben (new)

Ben Rowe (benwickens) | 429 comments What I dont like about prologues is that just when I am trying to connect and find my feet with the story (through characters) what I get is

1 situation, one set of characters to get used to, get invested in and then just when I get a sense of who they are and what is happening they become like a rug that is whisked away from under my feet and I have to start again.

I have always been a little like this although since getting ME and brain fog and short term memory problems (I recently reposted something I completely forgot I posted for instance) then the dislike of prologues has increased.

I am in no way saying that the prologue is bad or is used inappropriately in this case though.

And there are some books that have like 5 different prologues before the main narrative starts - far worse offenders.


message 27: by [deleted user] (last edited Feb 07, 2015 09:09AM) (new)

Ben wrote: "1 situation, one set of characters to get used to, get invested in and then just when I get a sense of who they are and what is happening they become like a rug that is whisked away from under my feet and I have to start again...."

One of the big trends in fantasy these days is to follow a bunch of different characters, cutting between their stories. The more characters, the more confusing. I'm not sure if this is a phenomena attributable to the A Song of Ice and Fire or Wheel of Time.

(Speaking of which, I know each book of WoT began with a prologue that usually featured a character that wasn't going to be in the rest of the book :)

Anyway, in the Snow Queen, I think we're following 3 different storylines: Moon, Sparks, and a bit of Jarusha(sp?).

Ben wrote: "I am in no way saying that the prologue is bad or is used inappropriately in this case though...."

Yes, the prologue of The Snow Queen is quite short. I don't think you had time to get attached to either of the characters involved.

* (sp?) problem with Audiobooks, can't tell about spelling. The female police captain ("blue") from The Hegemony.


message 28: by Mike (new) - rated it 3 stars

Mike Wilson | 113 comments I agree the name of the characters are a bit on the cheesy side but I'm about 1/2 way through it and am enjoying this novel. I think the world building is well done and like mentioned above not too many storylines. I'm hoping it ends well too!


message 29: by Geoffreyjen (last edited Feb 08, 2015 01:27PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Geoffreyjen (gedsy) | 17 comments I loved The Snow Queen, as I tend to like all stories that weave in elements of older tales. The idea of a "sybil" that Vinge developed has haunted me for years. I love the way Vinge blends vulnerability into large story frames - she did this in all of her work. I did find the book dragged in places, and, interestingly, I never liked the sequel, The Summer Queen, as much as The Snow Queen, although I did like World's End.


message 30: by [deleted user] (new)

I think The Snow Queen is a case where Vinge's world building is far more interesting than the lead plot she's chosen. (The True Love Triumphs over All trope.)

Outside of that, she's got the interesting story of the Hegemony exploiting colony planets such as Tiamat by keeping them technologically ignorant; plus the whole related political situation on Tiamat were Winters and Summers trade leadership roles as connection to the Hegemony is severed for a century or so, because the Summers intentionally refuse to be dependent on Hegemony technology and so have no trouble surviving after the Hegemony leaves Tiamat, abandoning the Winters who are dependent on that technology. And we have the interesting story of both the Hegemony and Winters exploiting the Mers. Also floating around is the idea of the old Empire having provided a repository of ancient knowledge in the Sibyls.

I found it interesting to watch the plot slowly accrete those other elements and raise them to center stage by the conclusion.


Andreas | 677 comments G33z3r wrote: "I think The Snow Queen is a case where Vinge's world building is far more interesting than the lead plot she's chosen. (The True Love Triumphs over All trope.)"

This statement seems to hold at several details - you talk about the main plot, I witnessed it in some smaller plot lines. E.g. when Sparks arrives in Carbuncle and his first experiences there (view spoiler) it was very predictable. But the smaller details like the animal pit fight or relationship of Hegemony and Snow Queen's court was very atmospheric and interesting.
I don't mind that the main plot isn't an outstanding feature in this novel. I didn't expect it to be, because it should follow or respect Anderson's lead.


message 32: by [deleted user] (new)

Andreas wrote: "I don't mind that the main plot isn't an outstanding feature in this novel. I didn't expect it to be, because it should follow or respect Anderson's lead. ..."

I certainly agree with the first sentence. A good deal of excellent science fiction & fantasy takes an old, familiar story and makes it fresh by placing it in a different world driven by new technology, magic, or fantastic setting.

In the case of The Snow Queen, Vinge tosses out those other elements, but doggedly sticks to the True Love theme.

Which brings me to the second sentence. I don't know that retelling an old story necessarily means one need to follow it quite so slavishly. Using the Andersen fairytale for inspiration is an interesting idea, but I wouldn't make it a straight jacket. Moon wanders through those other exogenous story elements, the exploitation of Tiamat by the Hegemony, their suppression of technological progress for their own economic interest in maintaining dependence, and finally the slaughter of the Mers.

By the end of the novel, Moon has finally picked up these themes as important parts of her mission. It just seemed to take a really, really long time to evolve to that.


Andreas | 677 comments G33z3r wrote: "It just seemed to take a really, really long time to evolve to that."
This might be another consequence of spreading out a 50 page long fairy tale (already overlong IMHO) to a ten times longer novel. Which feels "thin, sort of stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread." :)

But I'm judging prematurely: I've only read the fairy tale's worth of pages, yet.


message 34: by Andreas (last edited Feb 17, 2015 12:35AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Andreas | 677 comments Discussion here has stalled a bit :)

Halfway through, this is no page turner for me, I'd give 3 stars rounded up.

It might be that most of the characters feel so distant to me. Moon, Sparks, and Arienrhod are too flat. There is a lot of potential in smuggler Elsevier (?sp), but I wasn't emotionally involved even when (view spoiler). Best character is Blue commander Jerusha.

Plot is... just say predictable.
Best part of the novel is the carefully crafted setting. I wouldn't say impressive, though: The city of Tiamat is just a standard space port city which isn't really coming to live in the novel. But I like the background with Old Empire reaching into the cultural clash of Winter/Summer, the concept of Sibyls with its SF and fantasy interpretations.
What I didn't like about the setting was the copy from Dune - water of live instead of melange, etc.

Most impressive is the cover art by Michael Whelan


message 35: by [deleted user] (new)

Andreas wrote: "Discussion here has stalled a bit :) ..."

I think most of us finished up and moved on... I noticed you enjoyed City of Stairs, though. :)


Andreas wrote: "Plot is... just say predictable...."

I think I'd agree with that. Not just the part that follows the titular fairytale, where the outcome is naturally expected, but also the ancillary plot threads.

As you say, Jerusha seem the most interesting character to me. She had the most complex moral dilemma, and no plot armor.


Andreas wrote: "What I didn't like about the setting was the copy from Dune - water of live instead of melange, etc....."

Nah, I don't agree with that. The immortality serum is the MacGuffin that keeps the Empire interested in Tiamat at all. A lot of novels have similar MacGuffin's to inspire a technologically superior polity to keep the locals in line (e.g. Grass = cure for plague; Word for the World is Forest = unique lumber; Avatar = unobtanium. The sci-fi equivalent of gold, diamonds, and oil.) Immortality is the ultimate McGuffin. In Dune, locals and Empire alike are ignorant of the life cycle that produces the spice, while in Vinge's world everyone's aware it involves the slaughter of the Mers and her Empire is aware those Mers are intelligent, sentient beings. (Whose origin is a secret from everyone, except ultimately Moon.)


Brendan (mistershine) | 743 comments I thought this book was really good, and since I've never read the Hans Christian Andersen original (or seen the recent animated movie based on it) I actually didn't know where the plot was going to go. Loved all the explorations into colonialism, and how the more technologically advanced societies had more issues with gender and class than Tiamat did, though we also see dickish Winters so we know that they aren't all sunshine and rainbows. Very good book that made me read the last 40% in one shot to see how it ends, therefore 5 stars since that doesn't happen very often.


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