Monday, October 04, 2004

Survival (Species Imperative 1) by Julie Czerneda


The way this novel ends is so sharp you could seriously cut yourself on it. Although you know going in that a book with sub-title of "Species Imperative #1" is not going to contain the whole story, the sharpness of the conclusion to #1 was almost painful. Not in a bad way, but in that the author has been so skillful in leading the reader up to that zenith, the brevity of the final few pages leaves you gasping to know more. And checking to see if the next installment is scheduled for release yet.
In many ways what Czerneda has created is a very interesting mystery story. A biological mystery story. With the advantage that as science fiction the author she can create her own Universe and aliens to enhance the mystery. I do not want to give much more about the story away since it is important to learn "the facts" as does the central character Dr. Mackenzie (Mac) Conner.
What I can say is that Mac is a strong, well drawn character surrounded by other interesting people - both human and non-human. The Universe in which this story is set is so defined as to be open to limitless possibilities. The small portion of it which Czerneda has defined in more detail and set the novel in is inhabited by two alien species (the Dhyrn and the Ro) and Earth. Both the Dhryn culture and biology are well thought out. About the Ro, who are very interesting, it would be most accurate to say that although at the conclusion we "know" the Ro much better, they are still a mystery. When you have reached the end, the title "SURVIVAL - Species Imperative #1" makes perfect sense. And the fact the blurb on the author states she is a former biologist in no surprise. Czerneda has made use of her background in biology to write a most entertaining biological sci fi novel that left me wishing the next book was all ready available.

Sunday, October 03, 2004

City of Pearl by Karen Traviss

The Joy of a Great Debut.

This is the First SF novel by newcomer Karen Traviss and is an exceptionally polished work for a first novel. Even better is that it is "hard SF". As did one of the other reviewers I found that once started, this novel pulled you along until the finish, making it difficult for me to put down until I had reached the end.This book has a very interesting central character in the person of Shan Frankland, who on the verge of retirement is persuaded to accept a mission to Cavanagh's Star, where one of the planets circling Cavanagh's Star is home to the only extraterrestrial human colony. A mission with an elapsed time of 150 years. When they arrive at Cavanagh's star they find that the colony is there by permission of the wess'har, one of three alien species in the Cavangh system. Earths first ET contacts.Traviss has created a realistic future earth/world. Her aliens have interesting, believable and quite different cultures. Her characters are also interesting and believable. I do not want to say to much about the storyline as I feel that it is best in this instance to let the reader discover what is going on as they themselves read the story. The story does contain/make some interesting comments on human behaviour. So what you have is a great debut novel well worth reading. Better yet, the next novel of the wess'har wars is scheduled for publication in November 2004. And the fact that I plan to pick up and read this next novel as soon as it hits the shelves is all anyone really needs to know to judge just how impressed I was by this debut.

Saturday, October 02, 2004

Tinker by Wen Spencer

Spencer can Write!

European Elves, Japanese Oni, the city of Pittsburgh spending 1 day a month on earth and 30 days on the world of Faerie, and an eighteen year old girl who makes Eienstein look mentally challenged. These are the elements that Ms. Spencer weaves into a highly entertaining tale.Tinker is an inventive genius, born ten years after her father died, who has spent all of her eighteen year growing up in this strange/familiar city of Pittsburgh. Brilliant, inventive and brave it develops that she is the pivot upon which the fate of worlds turns. These elements could have been put together into a terrible book. But Wen Spencer's superb writing turns them into a wonderful romp. The only disappointment was that the story ends far to soon. One can only hope that Ms. Spencer plans to revisit Tinker at some time in the future. Read this book. Then if you have not read her first three books, get your paws on them and read them

Friday, October 01, 2004

Course of Empire by K D Wentworth and Eric Flint

Great ALIEN/human culture clash

K. D. Wentworth shows that the promise of interesting interaction betwixt and between alien and human cultures in her previous two novels was not an 'empty promise'. In this novel she delivers a well thought out alien culture. And in a way that reminded me of C.J. Cherryh made the setting such that the humans in the story must adapt to the aliens culture. Not only does she avoid the clique of the human culture dominating, but she also avoids the old 'aliens conquer earth, valiant earthmen triumph in the end' storyline with a far more interesting plot.
The Jao conquered Earth two decades ago - and things on earth have been going downhill ever since. The Jao are in a war with the Ekhat and are conquering other races in a quest for resources. Except that humans believe the Ekhat are just 'boogie aliens' created by the Jao to keep subject races in line. A power play between two major Jao 'clans' brings a young Jao scion to earth. And opens up the possibility of change as the young Jao assumes his duties and learns about earth and earths' people.
The story makes interesting comments about the clash of cultures that could as easily be applied to the differences between human cultures. That reason, an open mind, willingness to listen, to learn about/from and to compromise are needed to allow two very different cultures to work together. That two cultures together have strengths that neither has on its' own.
But Wentworth weaves all of these into a great story that grabs you interest and drags you along on the journey the characters are undertaking. With plot, hidden sub-plots, characters you like/dislike, plots by the characters, a great culture clash and the fine writing I have come to expect from Wentworth this novel is definitely on my 'Best of 2003' list. Give the bibliophile in you a treat and read this novel.