Issue Number 56
by Jean Weber
John Barnes, Earth Made of Glass, 1998, ISBN 0812551613
Sequel to A Million Open Doors. A study of the clash of unbending cultures, each striving to preserve its purity, and convinced of its superiority (all others are barbarians).
Giraut and Margaret are professional diplomats, set to the planet Briand to try to negotiate between the Maya and the Tamils. Their own relationship is rocky; he is oblivious, then knows he's in the wrong but has no idea why.
The springer, an instantaneous matter transmitter, has opened previously isolated planets to people from other cultures and planets, and many cultures are reeling from the shock, not just of cultural differences, but of open trade. The issues are quite relevant to much that's happening on earth today, between the proponents and opponents of free trade.
An interesting book, though I found the breast-beating tedious.
Marion Zimmer Bradley, The Shadow Matrix, 1997, ISBN 0886778023, and Traitor's Sun, 1998, ISBN 0886778115, Daw
Two Darkover novels, set in the present, sequels to Exile's Song. Margaret (Marguerida) Alton, who has spent most of her life off-planet, and Mikhail Lanart-Hastur feature in these books. She is trying to learn to control her laran. He is trying to be a competent Regent for the mad members of the Elhalyn family. In The Shadow Matrix, something calls Margaret and Mikhail to the past, where they play an important role in the history of the planet.
Traitor's Sun continues the story, as the Terrans finally close their base on Darkover. The stage is set for more books, but with the author's death the series is probably finished. As a wrap-up, this was pretty good.
Darkover fans should like these books, and those who haven't discovered the series will probably find them interesting and enjoyable too, and perhaps be inspired to seek out earlier books in the series.
C.J. Cherryh, Fortress in the Eye of Time, 1995, ISBN 0061056898, Fortress of Eagles, 1998, ISBN 006105710X, Fortress of Owls, 1999, ISBN 0061020087, Harper
I haven't read any of Cherryh's fantasy in several years, but decided to give this series a try. I'm glad I did, because I enjoyed them.
Tristen is Shaped by Mauryl the wizard to continue an ancient war against Hasufin, an evil wizard who refuses to die. At first an ignorant and innocent young man, Tristen discovers that when he needs to know a piece of information, it pops into his mind as if he had known it all along. This is both a blessing and a curse, as it makes people quite suspicious of him.
As the stories develop, Tristen becomes more involved in local politics, though he would rather not be. The complexities of the politics are typical of Cherryh's well plotted writing. Another book is out.
Mary Gentle, A Secret History, 1999, ISBN 0380788691, and Carthage Ascendant, 2000, ISBN 0380805502 (Volumes 1 and 2 of The Book of Ash), Avon
Ash grew up in a mercenary soldiers' camp and became a leader of mercenaries, despite being female. She hears a voice that gives her tactics in battlefield situations, but knows not to mention this to others.
Her successes bring her to the attention of royalty, who marry her off to a nobleman, hoping to thus curb her unwomanly activities. The tactic doesn't work, especially when the Visigoths seem about to conquer all of Europe.
Ash meets the Visigoths' general, a woman who could be Ash's twin sister (and who hears the same voice). Eventually Ash is captured and taken to the Visigoths' capital of Carthage, from which she must escape and try to free Europe from their murderous rule.
As the books progress, Gentle drops small, then larger, hints that the world in which these events take place isn't quite the same world that inhabits our history.
Lisa Mason, Imperium Without End, 1999, ISBN 0553575716, and Imperium Afire, 2000, ISBN 055358166X (Books I and II of Pangaea), Bantam
A rather heavy-handed look at a society bound by caste, religion, and custom. Although the story was interesting, I found the constant repetition of certain points tedious, and the whole premise a bit hard to accept.
Rowling, J.K., Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Scholastic, 1997, ISBN 059035342X
After listening to numerous friends tell me I "must" read the Harry Potter books, I broke down and bought this one (the first in the series) on sale. I'm glad I did; I quite enjoyed it. Although the story is nothing special, I thought it nicely captured that feeling of being in the wrong family, not understood by one's parents, picked on and punished for things one didn't do, and finding a talent that allows one to get even. I'll read the other books too.
Harry Turtledove, Colonization: Second Contact, Del Rey, 1999, ISBN 0345430220
Another volume in the saga of the invasion of Earth by The Race (aka Lizards). Now the colonization fleet has arrived, to find that the invasion fleet failed to subdue the planet.
Turtledove deftly mixes history, speculation, social comment, and humor. I've enjoyed this series immensely.
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Page last updated 29 March 2002