Thursday, March 30, 2006

sEEkEr by Jack McDevitt

A GrEaT read. The question is: should it be called science fiction or mystery?

This is the next search for antiquities by Alex and Chase following the story set out in Polaris. This is a mixture of mystery and science fiction, with both elements contributing to a blend that makes for a better story. I do not want to say much about the plot because following the twists and turns the plot takes is one of the things that makes this such a good and compelling read. The reader never knows what kind of turn is coming or where, in the Milky Way, the story will lead.

McDevitt has constructed a masterful blend of mystery and science fiction. He takes advantage of the science fiction elements to construct a most fascinating mystery story. In fact, to be as interesting a mystery story as it is, it needs to be a science fiction story as well. The story is well thought out which results in the book being well plotted and placed. McDevitt is an established and experience writer and this is clearly reflected in the prose of the novel. The story flows along and carries the reader with it. I need to mention that although this novel is about characters we know from previous novels you do not need to have read any of the other novels about these characters – another reflection of McDevitt’s experience and polish as a writer. Be warned: if you have not read any of the previous novels about these characters, you will be hunting down those novels to read as soon as you finish this novel.

You like Mysteries? You like Science Fiction? Fans of either or both of these genres will enjoy this Novel. I have read and enjoyed all of McDevitt’s novels, but I must admit that after reading this I hope that he plans to revisit Alex and Chase. OK, I cannot resist one plot statement, the final twist was truly a surprise and unexpected. Read this novel.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Poison Study byMaria V. Snyder

Although this is a first novel the author has been a freelance writer and the novel reflects this experience. It is well plotted and paced with a writing style that has the story flowing along. The world she has created is well thought out and populated with interesting, well-developed characters. The secret we learn about the Commander was quite a surprise.

This is a LUNA “romance fantasy” but the authors focus is on the fantasy with the romance in the background. In fact as far as romance goes I was surprised when I looked and saw LUNA was the publisher. They keep publishing novels of this quality and they are going to become known as a Science Fiction & Fantasy publisher, not for romance.

The story is about Yelena who is about to be executed, but is offered the the position of food taster for the Commander. Given the chance to live she begins to flower in her environment. How she grows, the friends she makes and the skills she gains allow her to be instrumental in overcoming a plot against the Commander and the nation. I had just read Singer by Jean Thesman (reviewed below) and both novel’s characters come from and abusive background. Yelena, however, grows stronger over the course of the novel (as opposed to Singer, pushed this way and that) until she is a moving force at novels end.

Polished writing, good central character surrounded by other strong characters, well thought out story and an emphasis on the fantasy elements not the romance. All in all a good novel – an impressive first published novel. I look forward to reading ‘Magic Study’ in the fall, the continuation the story of Yelena. I would recommend this novel for those looking for an enjoyable read.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Octagon Magic by Andre Norton

A wonderful book. It is one of Norton’s ‘Magic Books’ and is a reprint by Starscape Books (TOR) who are reprinting all of the Magic series of books.

Lorrie Mallard has been forced to live with her aunt in the US after her Canadian grandmother takes ill. She is very unhappy until she finds her way to Octagon House and Miss Ashmeade. The lessons Lorrie learns about herself and life are lessons young people can learn from. Lorrie grows and learns throughout the novel.

This book is a marvellous life lesson teaching tool and to that end Starscape has included three pages of discussion topics and questions at the end of the story. With Norton’s writing ability it is accessible to the young reader (but flows beautifully so as to pull inn the older reader). For teachers, you have in this novel both a wonderful read (hopefully encouraging more reading) and a point from which to begin talking about the choices young people face about their behaviour, how their behaviour affects themselves and others and how the should be deciding and behaving.

Highly recommended and a great addition to the books available for juvenile readers. A fun, worthwhile read for the older reader as well.

Singer by Jean Thesman

This is a young adult novel. The writing is smooth, the story well thought out and the characters interesting.

It is a fantasy novel about Singer a young girl who escapes her cruel mother, but is hunted by her mother for reasons she does not know. As she is hidden by different people she learns and acquires skills that it is her fate to master. We and Singer do not learn the truth of her birth and the reason she has a drop of blood until more than half the story is told. But this suits the story and the ‘tenor’ of the book.

This is a good novel and worth reading. What keeps it from being a ‘very good book’ to me is Singer herself. She is like a leaf blown in the wind through the whole story. She never becomes a strong enough character to exert control over her life and fate. I had the urge to tell her “get some backbone, think, decide, act.” While the writing and story were excellent and the characters (including Singer) were interesting the central character of Singer never developed any rapport for me.
So while this book is an enjoyable read I would recommend Tamora Pierce’s Wild Magic, Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonsong or Andre Norton’s Octagon Magic because in all three novels you come to care for the heroines.