Imagine a socialist paradise that bankrupts itself to develop a single interstellar spacecraft, the USS Alabama, designed to escape the solar system and colonize a new world, called Coyote.
Imagine that the colonists for this new world have been carefully selected by the government, emphasizing political loyalty as much as scientific knowledge.  Imagine that in this dystopian society, dissidents who remember the dream of Liberty are regularly rooted out, arrested, and shipped to reeducation camps in cattle cars.  And, finally, imagine that the captain of the USS Alabama, one Robert E Lee, is just such a dissident -- as yet undetected, and leader of a
conspiracy to seize the Alabama, replacing her crew on the eve of launch with a new set of colonists.  Colonists who remember freedom.

If you can imagine that without straining your suspension of disbelief, you'll do just fine with this novel, which presents a fairly normal interstellar colonization story with a hint of politics in the background.  It's not a story that will make a vast emotional impact; in fact, many of the events which might be expected to have such an impact are downplayed.  Don't come into this story hoping for a rousing tale of freedom versus oppression; it will not deliver
that, and does not try.  (That attempt appears to be reserved for the sequel, Coyote Rising). 

While the book will hold your interest, it does not rate special notice.  Colonization junkies will be disappointed by the lack of detailed challenges to be overcome related to the new world, and political junkies will be disappointed by the lack of rhetoric or emotional impact.  If the book has a strong point, it would be interpersonal relations, and even that aspect is too weak to carry the whole story.

The only reason I can see to read this novel is to set up the sequel. 

Sat Nov 26 12:29:46 CST 2005 by Matthew. Comments

The Wilding

I was first introduced to CS Friedman's work with the Coldfire Trilogy, an excellent exploration of the consequences of introducing humans into a world where magic is shaped by belief -- and thus gives life to our worst nightmares. I quickly located her other extant works, The Madness Season (with which I was similarly delighted) and In Conquest Born... which was a story with potential, but which ultimately disappointed me.

The Wilding is a follow-up to In Conquest Born, and the results are similar. The known universe for both books includes two warring empires, the Braxins and the Azeans, both human-based races with substantial changes to the base. The Braxins focused on physical prowess, producing warriors of great strength, great skill, and greater ruthlessness; the Azeans produced telepaths. In Conquest Born pitted the greatest of both races against one another, with unexpected results; The Wilding picks up centuries later, with the consequences.

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Sat Nov 26 12:12:01 CST 2005 by Matthew. Comments

A Feast For Crows

The latest and long-awaited book in George RR Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire, A Feast For Crows, was released on November 8. The book's delivery represents the end of a long wait for fans of the series, although -- prodded most likely by the degeneration of Jordan's Wheel of Time series -- most fans seem to prefer to wait long enough for Martin to get it right rather than demanding a quick release; and in the face of continuing difficulty with the scope of the work, Martin eventually split the book he had planned into two, publishing what he was done with and leaving the remainder of what he had planned for the next book. The result is a clear triumph, and vindicates that decision.

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Tue Nov 08 16:43:59 CST 2005 by Matthew. Comments

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