Monday, 28 February 2011

Crossing the Line and sci fi wrap-up

Today, the 28th. Feb., marks the end of Carl's Sci Fi experience.

I've never known two months to fly by so quickly! My original post about it is here. I note I was hoping to read three books, which I did, but not precisely the three books I was thinking I would read! One was on the list, two were not.

Anyway, that hardly matters, I'm just chuffed to bits with the three I did read, which were:

The Forbidden Tower by Marion Zimmer Bradley
The City of Pearl by Karen Traviss
Crossing the Line by Karen Traviss

I loved all three. And what's really nice is that these two authors are sort of new discoveries for me (I have actually read one MZB before) and will form the backbone of my sci fi reading for the rest of the year because I absolutely love both their writing. Mainly I think this is due to the strong female characters in their books, it makes such a refreshing change. But it's not just that, the books were all strong in plot, pacey, and imaginative.

A word or two about my final book.

Crossing the Line is book two in Karen Traviss's Wess'har sci fi series. It continues where book one left off and sees Shan Frankland, her body altered by c'naatat, the infection she picked up from the alien, Aras, now living on the planet of Wess'ej with Aras's people. She has a lot to learn. She has no idea, for instance, that her dominant personality will cause leadership problems among the matriarchs who rule the cities. What she does know is that she is a hunted person among humans. The secret of her longevity is out and various groups are all after the germ that has infected her. She also knows a war is looming between the Wess'har and the Isenj and that humans have sided with the latter but are, in all likelihood, destined to be caught in the middle. In all, five species will affected by the coming conflict and the worst thing of all would be for Shan to be caught by those who would use her blood to create a race of beings who cannot die.

Best of all about this series, imo, is the plausibility of the aliens. All so different, from the Wess'har with their sea-horse type heads, to the spider-like Isenj or the Ussini who resemble meerkats. Every single one is vividly described, but not just physically... their various species' traits are also so real they could actually exist.

A couple of other things. I like way the author forces the reader to see humans as others might see us:

Aras stiffened. "It's not about species. It's what you do. Do you know what I despise most about you?" His tone,as ever, was deceptively even, like a priest giving absolution to a monster and trying hard not to let his personal revulsion show. "Your unshaken belief that you're special, that somehow all the callousness and careless violence that your kind hand out to each other and to other beings can be forgiven because you have this... this great human spirit. I have viewed your dramas and your literature, you see. I have lost count of the times I have seen the humans spared by the aliens, because, despite humanity's flaws, the alien admires their plucky spirit and ability to strive. Well, I am that alien and I don't admire your spirit, and your capacity to strive is no more than greed. And unlike your god, I don't love you despite your sins."

For someone who grew up with Star Trek and Dr. Who (who adores humans) that kind of thing is shocking to read because it's so much the opposite of what we've been fed over the years. It made me think hard about us as a species and that's never a bad thing.

And the other thing is, as I mentioned before, the strong women in the books. Not just Shan but the matriarchs on Wess'ej who feature strongly in this second book; hopefully we'll see a lot more of them in the next four. I have the next two and am literally forcing myself to keep away from them as I have several other books I must read first.

Thanks go to Carl for hosting this 'experience' once again. I feel really indebted as it's brought me back to science fiction, which was always my first love, and this will now enrich my reading for the rest of the year.



Jeane said...

That alien's view of human nature seems painfully accurate to me. We can be so blindly full of ourselves!

Cath said...

Jeane: I completely agree. I've never heard the sentiment expressed before and I just thought, 'Well said, it's about time someone had the nerve...' I love the way these books express how full of ourselves we are and how dangerous this is to other species, in the main because they're different and therefore of not much account. In real life this very much applies on this planet of course.

Kailana said...

I know! I had hoped to read more for the Experience, but I got a bit busy with other things. I am looking forward to reading Karen Traviss at some point.

DesLily said...

Bravo sis!! I'm glad you read as many as you had hoped to!

won't be long now and once upon a time will be here...and the rip.. see there the whole year is gone already! (it does feel that way..*sigh*)

Cath said...

Kailana: the same happened to me last year with the sci fi experience, I just didn't get around to reading more than one: it happens. I hope you get around to Karen Traviss though - she is so good.

Pat: yeah, I'm quite pleased with myself. lol

Yep, only 3 weeks to OUaT now. We think alike, I was only thinking today that 2 months of this year have already slipped by. Will have to start the Christmas shopping soon. heheh

Susan said...

Wow, you make me think I'd better find this series fast! wonderful review of Karen's second book, Cath. And I completely agree with what you say about Carl's challenge bringing us back to an early type of literature that I really enjoyed too - I read Asimov etc when I was 13. It's good to know Carl's challenge is reaching across so many places, and people, isn't it?

I also think that sentiment is good to hear - I take a dim view of most of what we have achieved as humanity, since we can't seem to look beyond politics and money to see the person, and that life is what matters. Until that point, we really aren't achieving much of what we could as a species, I think.

Cath said...

Susan: I've absolutely loved doing this 'experience' of Carl's. I wasn't reading Asimov at 13, I don't think I really discovered sci fi until I was about 15. Used to read all the Gollanz authors like Damon Knight... gleaned from the library of course, but there were never enough!

Yep... I think money, power, politics, is what really counts in this world and that's bad thing, imo. Everything is fueled by greed when it comes right down to it. I sometimes wonder if the writers of Star Trek:TNG based the Ferengi on us.

And yes! read Karen Traviss! LOL.

Carl V. said...

I'm so thrilled you participated and congratulate you heartily on the three books you got through. I'm glad that you were able to join me in reveling in the love of science fiction.

I am hard pressed to say just where those two months went. I had a feeling that January was going by at a leisurely pace but I was deceived. And then February just disappeared in the blink of an eye!

Cath said...

Carl: Thank *you* for hosting this delightful bookish experience, I was thrilled to participate. Am now eagerly anticipating Once Upon a Time.

And now March seems to be going the way of Jan and Feb. It's quite scary really.

Carl V. said...

No kidding, I cannot believe the month is so close to being at an end.