Book Reviews, May 2012

     Sundiver, by David Brin.  ☼☼☼☼.  Based on the beginning of the book, I expected it to be like Peter Watts’ Blindsight—a bunch of people would get into a special spaceship, fly to the sun, and then have several hundred pages of epic!fail.  To be clear, I did like Blindsight, but at the moment I was in the mood for something lighter.
And I got it.  If I had to classify Sundiver, I’d go for SF-mystery.  There was sabotage, aliens, science, false leads…all in spaaaaaace!  Also, as I mentioned before, I’m a sucker for protags with multiple personality disorder.  For some reason.  Not gonna analyze that one.
Also!  I was pleasantly surprised when, at the end, Jacob announced that he was planning on joining his girlfriend at her next assignment.  I get a bit sad whenever a female love interest gives up her career in order to be with a guy, so this reversal made me happy.

Cyteen, by C. J. Cherryh.  ☼☼☼☼.  I was bored to tears with the first chapter or two.  Political maneuvering.  A bunch of old scientists and politicians trying to out-think each other.  Yawn.  I probably would have stopped there, had the blurbs on the back convinced me that there would be characters to care about if I made it far enough.
Obviously, I did, and there were, or else I wouldn’t have given it four stars.  I got sucked in around the time they introduced Justin, so if you’ve gotten that far and are still bored…sucks to be you?  Really though, I had trouble putting the book down.  This is my first Cherryh book, so I skimmed over a lot of the history and politics (and yes, science), but the characters really kept it going.  The ending fizzled.  Unsurprisingly, there’s a sequel.  Bizarrely, there’s a twenty-one year gap between the publication of this book and the sequel.  Well, I’ve got Regenesis from the library and I’ll see how it goes.
(I suppose I should mention: this book is thick.  The sequel is equally thick.  Nothing, really, is resolved by the end of Cyteen.  Instead of a 680 page commitment, you should think of it as a 1200+ page commitment.  Make your decisions accordingly.)

Inda, by Sherwood Smith.  ☼☼☼☼.  Swords ‘n’ horses, with a bit o’ sorcery thrown in.  Here’s the great part, though: no prophesies, no destinies, and no magical farmboys.  There’s a great and varied cast of characters.  There’s politics and intrigue.  There’s cultural relativism, and hints of darker (forgotten?  Lost?) historical events yet to be revealed.  Only drawback?  The author doesn’t hesitate to kill off characters.  It’s not even one-at-a-time; sometimes it’s in great swathes.  Suddenly, characters who I just spent half the book getting to know are dropping like flies.  In that way, Inda is not a comfortable book to read.  I was so shell-shocked by the end that, in a fit of paranoia, I tried to ready myself for everyone to die in a The Departed-esque dénouement.  Obviously, that didn’t happen because there are sequels, and I knew there are sequels, but that didn’t matter to me at the time.  I think that Inda must survive till the end, or else it wouldn’t make sense naming the series after him.  I shall cling to that thought as I battle my way through the rest of the books.

Falling Free, by Lois McMaster Bujold.  ☼☼☼.  This was the last book from the Vorkosiverse that I hadn’t read.  I decided to fix that.  It’s about the Quaddies.  I don’t think I learned anything new from it—no insight into other Vorkosi-books, events, universe, or history.  It’s a quick and easy read, but I didn’t feel like I got anything out of it.

Regenesis, by C. J. Cherryh.  ☼☼☼☼.  Sequel to Cyteen.  Actually, it would be more accurate to call it Cyteen, Part II.  It picks up right where Cyteen left off, and clears up many of the plot lines that had been left hanging.  Both books make an…atypical read, in my opinion.  There are no sudden, clever Holmesian-type reveals.  Instead, we are privy to every failed route of deduction, every cul-de-sac of circular reasoning, every facet of psychological inspection.  Conclusions would become a psychological certainty in Ari’s mind far before any actual evidence turned up, so that by the time evidence was found the reveal became underwhelming.
Also, Ari has a curiously childlike streak to her.  She distrusts everyone, except for a core group of friends to whom she gives her unlimited trust.  She built a new wing onto Reseune and moved herself and all her friends in, because she wanted them all to be as safe as she could make them.  She seems to be ignoring the possibility that people change.  What happens, ten years down the road, when one of her friends falls in love with someone who doesn’t pass the stringent security clearances?  Or when one of them develops a competing political ideology?  It seems oddly short-sighted of her to be ignoring that possibility.
Anyway.  The first half of the book was disappointing.  Mostly, it was Ari, Florian, and Yanni sitting around and thinking.  It felt really repetitive, like they were going over the same paths over and over again.  I wasn’t paying attention enough to know whether this was Cherryh’s version of a recap (I’d just read Cyteen, so maybe that’s why it felt familiar), or whether Regenesis was repeating itself.  It picked up a lot in the second half, which is what saved the rating from being three stars.
If you care about the characters from Cyteen, you can’t go wrong with Regenesis.  If not…what are you doing here?

The Fox and King’s Shield, by Sherwood Smith.  ☼☼☼☼.  I overreacted in my review of Inda.  It looks like there’s a number of major characters, and they’ll all be harder to kill (than everyone else, all of whom seem to have been designated redshirts).  I’m happy now.  And I can’t put this series down.

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