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Arthur W. Jordin (Suwanee, GA USA)
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Forge of Heaven
Forge of Heaven
by C. J. Cherryh
Edition: Hardcover
29 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Interference From Earth, July 13 2004
This review is from: Forge of Heaven (Hardcover)
Forge of Heaven is the second novel in the Gene Wars series, following Hammerfall. In the previous volume, the Human Commonwealth developed a layered defense against genetic and nanotech contamination, with Earth itself at the heavily protected center. Around Earth were the almost as well-protected Inner Worlds. Surrounding these were the Outsider Worlds, where gengineering and even nanotechnology was practiced routinely, but with heavy safeguards; among the Outsider Worlds were the four Ruined planets, where runamuck genetic diversity had caused great devastation during the Gene Wars. Beyond all these, at the border with ondat space, was Concord Station, where Earth, the Outsiders and the ondat have been monitoring the recovery of Marak's World from the devastating Hammerfall.
For a while, the Outsider Worlds achieved autonomy from Earth after their abandonment by the mother planet during the Gene Wars. However, Earth has reasserted her rights to dominate all human space and now appoints the governors of each Outsider planet and Station, except Apex. However, the Outsiders elect their own Councils, as well as the High Council at Apex, and thus effectively restrict the power of the home planet.
Ila is the only survivor of the Movement. Even after fleeing to the Refugee, Ila controls a powerful inventory of biological and nanotechnical agents and has been using this capability to reform and rebuild the hammered Marak's world. One of the benefits of such genetic engineering is a greatly extented lifetime; thus, Ila is probably the oldest living human, with a lifespan of close to a millennium. With all this experience to draw from, and her expanded lifespan, Ila is capable of implementing very longterm plans. Concord Station exists primarily to prevent Ila from gaining total control.
In this novel, centuries after the Hammerfall, the Planetary Office on Concord Station is still monitoring the Hammerfall survivors and their descendants. Marak, Hati and some of the young men are trekking across unexplored territory to observe the slowly eroding Southern Wall, which separates the sea from the lowlands beyond. They have come along the ridge between the Needle River Gorge and the lowlands and have reached the narrowest point. Here they make camp, set up a relay, and prepare for a heavy blow.
The next day, the fading storm is followed by an earthquake and multiple aftershocks. All the beshti, except the personal mounts of Marak and Hati, break loose from the tether-line and flee into the early morning shadows. Marak and Hati have to leave the youngsters behind in the camp and chase after the runaway beshti. The tremors have also caused leaks in the Southern Wall and it seems that the sea may break through much sooner than expected. Naturally, the runaway beshti head down toward the lowlands, where they are likely to drown if Marak and Hati don't get them turned around very quickly.
Procyon, ne Jeremy Stafford, is the youngest of the Taps assigned to Marak. The biotechnology implanted within his brain allows him to communicate directly with a similar device within Marak's skull. Procyon is excited by the current excursion and eager to vicariously tag along as Marak explores the region. However, he is pulled from his normal rotation and ordered to meet with a special envoy from Earth, Andreas Gide, who has lately arrived with only minimal prior notification.
Shortly after his arrival, Gide specifically demanded to speak to Procyon. Since Procyon works for the Planetary Office, the Earth appointed Governor, Setha Reaux, passed this demand on to Antonio Brazis, Chairman of the Outsider Council on Concord and also Director of the PO. Both men agree to let Procyon meet with the Earth envoy to possibly discover the purpose of the unannounced visit.
Procyon has an uncomfortable interview with the special envoy, who is encased in an oval-shaped machine with a highly supple armor that protects him from contamination, yet can mimic his facial expression and gestures. Procyon stonewalls the envoy on all subjects related to his job, but is astounded at how much information on his personal life is known to the envoy. As Procyon exits the dwelling after the interview, someone fires a projectile past him and breaches the shell around the envoy. Procyon pulls the confused and angry envoy from the burning machine and then wanders out the door in a state of shock.
In this story, Procyon is the center of the political storm, with his sister among the avant-garde of the station, his access to Marak on the planet, and his official contacts with the station authorities. Moreover, Kekellen and his band of suborned robots add another link, this time to the ondat. At least Procyon doesn't have to pretend anymore that he has a dull, ordinary job.
The series seems to be bringing the Earth appointed Governor and the Outsider Chairman closer together against the various Earth factions. In fact, the harsh nonreturn policy resulting from Earth's fear of biological and nanotechnical contamination is leaving Commonwealth appointed administrators on the Outsider Worlds with vested interests in the local societies, where they and their families have been essentially exiled for the foreseeable future. It seems that Earth and the Inner Worlds are politically as well as biologically isolating themselves from the rest of human space.
This series, with the craft allusions -- Hammer, Forge -- in the volume names, appears to be building toward some great work. Possibly the next volume with be called Mill of the Gods, for the series is grinding exceedingly slowly, but also exceedingly fine. If so, the next novel will probably take place several centuries after this installment.
Highly recommended for Cherryh fans and for anyone else who enjoys tales of alien contact and exotic societies.
-Arthur W. Jordin

Hammerfall
Hammerfall
by C. J. Cherryh
Edition: Hardcover
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5.0 out of 5 stars Madness From the Desert, July 12 2004
This review is from: Hammerfall (Hardcover)
Hammerfall is the first novel in the Gene Wars series. In the far future, the Earth Commonwealth has spread her colonies into the galaxy, locating waystations in convenient systems along the star lanes. A lucrative cluster of G5 stars located in a circle of mutually reachable systems has attracted extremely heavy colonization along an axis that eventually brings humans into contact with the ondat, an alien society with its own starfaring capabilities.
The alien encounter occurred at an unfortunate time, for a social conflict over genetic engineering and nanotechnology has erupted in war among the human worlds. An organization called the Movement secretly settled several planets with bioengineered humans, animals and plants. Earth reacted violently to this intensive use of gengineering and a long war ensued.
When ondat ships visiting human worlds became contaminated with Movement nanisms and unsuspectingly carried these infections back to their own home world, they first blamed all of humanity for the damage. However, the ondat eventually distinguished between the Commonwealth and their enemy and developed an ad hoc truce with human forces allied against the Movement. Later, the ondat led Earth ships to a previously unknown world where a single survivor of the Movement, Ila, has ruled for centuries with the help of her genetic and nanotech agents.
In this novel, Marak Trin Tain has heard voices in his head for as long as he can remember. As the heir of the powerful Tain Trin Tain, Marak kept his madness secret until he finally fell into a fit as a young man. His father had him taken to the holy city with the other possessed ones.
Within the city, Marak is brought to an interview with Ila, his father's enemy, and confesses his aberration. He agrees to lead a caravan into the eastern desert to look for the source of the madness. With sixty-nine beshti, an experienced caravaneer and his men, and forty-one of the mad, Marak leaves the holy city and heads east.
As he travels, Marak teaches the villagers among the mad how to ride the beshti, to conserve water, and to survive the storms. He finds a tribeswoman among the mad, Hati, who becomes his second-in-command. They reach Pori and move off the Lakht into the unknown.
In this story, Marak finds the tower in the desert and is given a message for Ila. Death is coming from the skies and all must free to a Refugee in the eastern desert; any who remain will be destroyed in the Hammerfall. So Marak returns to lead the exodus.
This story has the signature touch of the author, but adds a degree of confusion and illogic beyond that of her other books. Marak is not only unaware of the major factors effecting his world, but is also overwhelmed occasionally by the voices and visions. He walks a narrow road between necessity and frenzy. The overall mood is strange and befuddling and the action is minimal, but Marak begins to insinuate himself into your mind.
Highly recommended for Cherryh fans and for anyone else who enjoys tales of exotic societies in unusual environments.
-Arthur W. Jordin

Bio Rescue
Bio Rescue
by S Viehl
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 32.24
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Kevarzangian Style Romance, July 7 2004
This review is from: Bio Rescue (Hardcover)
Bio Rescue is the first novel in a new sequence within the StarDoc universe. In previous volumes, the planet Kevarzangia Two (K-2) has established their independence from Earth and joined the Allied League as an autonomous planet. One of the consequences of this changed political relationship with Earth is the planetary obligation to provide for the common defense, including spatial defense.
In this novel, Commander Jadaira mu T'resa is the leader of a squadron of strafer craft flying a routine patrol which encounters a passenger freighter caught within a Hsktskt displacer blockade. The vessel is leaving a wide debris trail, but refuses assistance from the K-2 ships. Dair rescues the vessel anyway.
The pilot of the damaged vessel is Rushan Amariah, a religious personage among the Skartesh. His people are refugees from their own home world, which was rendered uninhabitable by the Hsktskt. Shan, as the Salvager, is thought to be the long prophesied savior of the Skartesh people, destined to lead them back to a restored home world.
The Skartesh are not well liked by other groups on K-2. They are often referred to as the Skittish due to their habit of avoiding physical contact with other species. Moreover, they have been gathering in enclaves on K-2 for some time and have been bringing political and legal pressure on the government to forward their own goals. They are also hydrophobic, sweat heavily in the damp climate on K-2, are prone to a fur disease somewhat like mange, and have the custom of urinating on each other. Thus, many individuals of other species are repelled by their appearance and stench.
In this story, Dair and Shan have a complicated relationship, mixing a certain amount of appeal with a great deal of repulsion. Just to make their relationship more complicated, Dair's second in command, Lieutenant Onkar, has selected her as his future mate. Sometimes Dair finds herself barely able to keep Onkar from killing Shan (and other times she herself is filled with killing rage at the Skarkesh).
Normally Dair and Shan would have little to do with each other, for Dair is a native Kevarzangian, an amphibious species who spend most of their time underwater. However, Dair and the rest of her squadron are SEALs (Surgically Enhanced/Altered Lifeforms), with bodies modified to allow them to spend much longer intervals away from the sea while on patrol.
Dair, however, is even more modified, for she had almost died with her mother after the Core infection attacked the pregnant female. Dair's mother held on to life long enough to expel Jadaira from her body, but the premature infant was kept alive only by the urgent efforts of the Terran scientist Teresa Selmar. Using available Terran biomass to supplement the immature 'Zangian organs and other body parts, Teresa created a very humanoid body for Dair.
Teresa provides a strong contrast with Dr. Joseph Grey Veil in the StarDoc series. Both saved a child's life by dint of heroic biosurgical intervention, but Doctor Grey Veil considered that such effort made Cherijo his possession. Teresa, however, felt that her efforts made Dair her responsibility. She formed a close emotional attachment to the young 'Zangian and then to the father, Dairatha; eventually Teresa became Dair's stepmother.
This story presents a series of cultural conflicts between the 'Zangians and the other species on the planet. For example, 'Zangians never try to save their injured, for the slightest trace of blood in the waters causes the sea raptors to congregate in a feeding frenzy, so the concept of a medical rescue service is a puzzlement to most of the natives. Indeed, they see little need for medicine itself.
The 'Zangians are not only puzzled by the Skartesh, but also downright offended by their mores and customs. How can they trust something that is afraid of water? Some of this confusion comes from the wide differences between a desert mammal and a deep sea amphibian, but there are also severe conflicts in religious attitudes, for the 'Zangians have little in the way of an organized religion while the Skartesh are governed by their religious authorities.
This new duology promises to be very entertaining, for social conflicts and misunderstandings abound and the Hsktskt are always waiting in the wings to tide over the dull spots. The author is not among the greats of the field, but she does keeps the reader's attention throughout the book. Hopefully this storyline will expand to more than two volumes.
Recommended for Viehl fans and for anyone else who enjoys light tales of humans and exotic aliens living together in turbulent, conflicted, yet hopeful relationships within a very mixed society.
-Arthur W. Jordin

Lost and Found: The Taken Trilogy Book 1
Lost and Found: The Taken Trilogy Book 1
by Alan Dean Foster
Edition: Hardcover
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Noble Savage Among the Decadent Aliens?, July 5 2004
Lost and Found is the first novel in The Taken trilogy. Marcus Walker was a commodities broker from Chicago. Somehow, he found himself camping near the miniature metropolis of Bug Jump, California, to win a bet that he could actually survive outside civilization. Aside from a close encounter with the relatives of a possibly pregnant maiden, Marcus was looking good going in to the home stretch. Then he heard some strange noises around his tent and opened the flap to shine his flashlight directly into the eyes of a very alien countenance.
In this novel, Marcus wakes up the next day in a fairly convincing simulation of his campsite, but not in California. Instead, he is on a starship many lightyears away from home and putting even more distance from Chicago with each second. After some days of solitary confinement in his little diorama, one wall opens up to reveal the neighboring cell, an urban alley scene, and its inhabitant, a now talking dog of unknown ancestry.
After some discussion, the dog lets Marcus address him as George. Strangely enough, he is also a native of Chicago and was taken directly from that city. George has not been as belligerent as Marcus, so he has had the run of the common area for several days and has met many of their fellow captives. Thinks to his universal translator implant, George has discovered much about their captors. Among other info, George has discovered that they were captured for the curiosities market by a mercantile company of Vilenjii.
With some coaching by George, Marcus begins to mingle with the other captives and soon starts working on a plan to gain their freedom. He meets two other captives with exceptional mental and physical powers and brings them into the conspiracy. Despite their blatant disbelief in his goals, Marcus is determined at the least to strike back at their captors and, if remotely possible, to escape from the ship.
In this story, Marcus learns that he is not very special. Only his ability to learn humility keeps him alive. However, he perseveres in his goals, despite all objections; some would say that he is just too dumb to understand his situation, but he doesn't agree ... most of the time (those midnight doubts are hell).
The storyline combines the tale of the ignorant savage introduced to high society with that of the powerless slave escaping from the chains of a hellship. Of course, the author includes a clean, disease-free environment maintained by advanced automata, so the outward forms of this captivity are not as visible, but the psychological environment is just as miserable.
Highly recommended for Foster fans and for anyone else who enjoys light tales of humans among advanced technological societies and sophisticated sapients.
-Arthur W. Jordin

The Dragon's Son: The Second Book of the Dragonvarld Trilogy
The Dragon's Son: The Second Book of the Dragonvarld Trilogy
by Margaret Weis
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 28.95
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4.0 out of 5 stars Raising the Sons, July 3 2004
The Dragon's Son is the second novel in the Dragonvarld Trilogy, following Mistress of Dragons. In the previous volume, the Mistress of Dragons, Melisande, was kidnapped by King Edward before her heart could be removed and was taken from the Kingdom of Seth with the reluctant assistance of Draconas, the Walker. For a long while, they were chased relentlessly by the women warriors of Seth, but eventually they evaded their pursuers. After they reached a temporary refugee, Edward and Melisande coupled together in sheer relief. Soon thereafter, the dragon in a man's body, Grald, found Melisande alone and raped her.
Draconas sent Edward back to his wife, children and kingdom, then took Melisande away to a hidden village. Bellona, her friend and lover, accompanied the Mistress of Dragons into hiding. Months later, Melisande had began labor with her two sons, one by Edward and the other by Grald, when the warrior women found them again and attacked the cottage where she was giving birth. Draconas saved the two boys, but Melisande was killed.
In this novel, Draconas has sent Marcus, Edward's son, to be raised by his father, but Bellona is fostering Ven, the dragon's son, in a cabin deep within the forest. Every year, Bellona takes her furs to one of the nearby harvest fairs and uses the coin to buy things that they can neither produce nor forage for themselves. When Ven is six, they go to the market at Fairfield. There Ven is attacked by a dog and his trouser leg is torn. Some of the bystanders are sure that they see blue scales through the tears, but a kindly bystander examines the damage and shows that the only thing under the cloth is a bloody, ravaged leg.
Of course, the kindly stranger is Draconas, who has used illusion to hide the scaled leg of the dragon's son. Nonetheless, a nun who witnesses the whole episode disappears shortly thereafter. Draconas soon discovers that she is working with Grald, so he hurries Bellona and Ven out of the fair and back home.
After that, Ven is very reluctant to accompany Bellona to any fair. Ten years passes before he once more goes with her to the fair at Rhun. There he is wined, drugged and rolled for his money. When he goes after the thief, he encounters sex, betrayal, humiliation, and death. He is also found by his dragon father.
In this volume, Draconas is trying to protect the boys from Grald and his accomplices, but is also trying to protect the dragons from any bad publicity. Unfortunately, these goals seem to be mutually irreconcilable. Moreover, his opponents have taken the initiative and he is only reacting to their ploys. Draconas is becoming very frustrated.
The situation is looking very bleak at the end of this segment. Can Ven avoid being dominated by his father? Can Marcus withstand the charms of Evelina? Is Draconas gone for good?
Recommended for Weis fans and for anyone else who enjoys tales of adventure and suspense in a fantasy setting, but with a touch of contemporary cynicism.(...)

The Nameless Day: Book One of 'The Crucible'
The Nameless Day: Book One of 'The Crucible'
by Sara Douglass
Edition: Hardcover
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5.0 out of 5 stars The End of All Things Is Nigh, Right?, June 30 2004
The Nameless Day is the first novel in The Crucible series. In an alternate timeline very much like our own, forty-five years after Clement V moved the Papacy to Avignon, Brother Wynkyn de Worde left his friary, Saint Angelo's in Rome, and traveled to Nuremberg as he had done twice a year for fifty-three years. As the Select, it was his duty to open the Cleft in the woods and to throw the semiannual crop of abominations into the Fires of Hell. Unfortunately, he has caught the Black Plague and it has sapped away his strength, so he fell into convulsions as he summoned the children to him. They arrived just in time to see him die.
In this novel, seventy years after the Papacy moved to Avignon, Gregory IX returns to Rome, at least for a while. The city goes wild and people dance in the streets. That evening Brother Thomas Neville also enters Rome. After being shown his cell in Saint Angelo's and paying his respects to the prior, Thomas leaves for Saint Peter's Basilica to pray before the altar there. He is totally engrossed in his prayers when the Archangel Michael appears and informs him that he has been chosen as the Beloved of both the Lord God and the angels.
The Archangel Michael does not speak again to Brother Thomas for over a year. Of course, Thomas has much to do to prepare himself for his role as the Beloved. He spends much of his time at prayer, more than his fellows, as well as study. On the afternoon of the Saturday following the Annunciation, Thomas is studying friary records in the library when the novice Daniel approachs him for advice concerning some information he has overheard. Daniel had taken messages to the Secretary of the Curia when a Benedictine monk burst in and blurted out the news that the Pope was dead. Thomas sends Daniel to the lower marketplace to spread the word that Gregory is dead. Thomas himself spreads the word in the main market square. Just as the Curia is sitting down to vote on a new pope, the Roman mob bursts into the Hall of Conclave and threatens the Cardinals for their attempted betrayal of the people of Rome. The Curia readily agrees to delay the selection of the new pope until after the official funeral.
While everybody is awaiting the Papal election, Thomas is tracing down an inconsistency in the friary registers. One friar, Brother Wynkyn de Worde, left the friary twice a year, each time for eight weeks and had done so since 1295. Thomas asks Prior Bertrand about the man and is chastised for his arrogance and is then assigned the daily penance of praying from Prime to Nones and of washing the feet of prostitutes in the streets around the marketplace after dinner until just before Vespers. Brother Thomas has struck a nerve.
After the funeral, the fearful Cardinals elect Bartolomo Prignano, Archbishop of Bari, as the new Holy Father, Urban VI. They give the mob an Italian, as was demanded. Urban VI pledges never to take the Papacy from Rome again. After several weeks, the Curia, still loyal to the French King, decides that he means it and a majority slip out of Rome to flee to Avignon, where they elect another pope. The time of the two popes has begun.
Finally, Archangel Michael reappears to Thomas and informs him that he is the successor to Brother Wynkyn. Thomas confronts Prior Bertrand once more and refuses to defer to superior authority, saying that he himself speaks with the voice of the Lord God and Archangel Michael. He forces Bertrand to tell him everything about Brother Wynkyn. After an abortive attempt at an interview with Pope Urban, Thomas follows Wynkyn's path to Nuremberg.
This story is exceedingly confusing, for plans are being implemented behind the scenes that only come into public view on a few occasions. The abominables who escaped Brother Wynkyn are one of the parties manipulating Thomas and the angels are another. Thomas has been betrayed by his own order, for the Prior General of England, Richard Thorseby, believes him to be unstable. Thomas IS obsessed by the death of a woman whom he had seduced, but denied when she was accused of adultery and subsequently put to death. In fact, he is obsessed with all women, fearing that he will betray any that he loves. He has been cursed by a prostitute to lose his heart to another such and greatly fears that this will actually happen.
The covert plotting is only hinted in this volume. Supposedly the abominables are as beautiful as angels, but are not human. The Church considers them imps of Satan, but there are signs that they might be the byblows of the angels themselves. Brother Thomas is supposed to lead the hosts of God, but Jeanne D'Arc ends up commanding the armies, not Thomas. This volume is engrossing, yet obscure and rambling. Hopefully the second book will provide a few explanations. Right!
Highly recommended for Douglass fans and for anyone else who enjoys tales of characters out of history who live and think in a thoroughly authentic manner.
-Arthur W. Jordin

Scepters: The Third Book of the Corean Chronicles
Scepters: The Third Book of the Corean Chronicles
by L. E. Modesitt
Edition: Hardcover
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5.0 out of 5 stars The Final Confrontation, June 29 2004
Scepters is the third novel in the Corean Chronicles, following Darknesses. In the previous volume, Iron Valleys became a province of Lanachrona and the militia was transferred to Lanachronan control as the Northern Guard. Alucius led four companies of the Northern Guard into Deforya to defend against invading Illegean nomads. After defeating various human and nonhuman enemies -- including legendary yet real pteridons -- and barely surviving his experiences, Alucious was summoned to Tempre to meet the Lord Protector.
Encountering an ifrit who had possessed the Recorder of Deeds, he was forced to flee through the Tables network and found his way to the hidden city of the Soarers. There Alucius was taught much more about his Talents and then returned to the Table network to defeat two of the ifrits. Afterwards, Alucius was finally allowed to return to Iron Valleys, was presented with his discharge papers, and, with only a small delay, set off for the family stead. However, on the way he encountered an ambush obviously intended for him and just barely managed to kill all the assassins before they quite finished killing him. After a minimal recovery time and with an escort of Northern Guard horse troopers, Alucius finally returned home to Wendra.
In this novel, Alucius and Wendra have been enjoying their time together. However, the situation has gotten worse in the Iron Valleys and in Lanachrona; prices are still rising and the war against the Matrites is not going well. The Lord Protector has been forced to spread his forces too thinly in order to protect against a variety of threats while simultaneously prosecuting the Matrial war. At the request of the Lord Protector, Alucius returns to duty as a Majer and leads an expedition of Northern and Southern Guard companies to put down a duarchist revolt in Hyalt. After that mission, he is requested to lead a special operation against the Matrial crystal-spear throwers.
The Lord Protector is careful not to offend Alucius; he appeals mostly to his sense of civic duties, but he also offers command of the Northern Guard to Alucius upon return from the mission, replacing Colonel Weslyn. This combination leaves Alucious without an acceptable alternative and he rides out once more in command of the Fifth Northern Guard company and the Eighth Southern Guard company and with Feran as his second in command. Later, he acquires another two companies of newly trained Southern Guards. In Hyalt, he finds that someone is using Talent to produce total fanatics, so more than military action is required. Afterwards, in Southgate, he spends more time defending himself against senior Lanachronan officers than fighting the Matrites.
In this story, Alucius is repeatedly attacked by Talent-beasts sent by the ifrits, who are using the Tables against him. However, he begins to learn more about the ifrits themselves as well as the true history of Corus. He also begins to learns how to use more that his own lifeforce, including the lifeforce of the world itself.
Alucius is truly becoming a lamaial, destined to be powerful enough to prevent the return of the duarchists as rulers over Corus. As his powers grow, so does his responsibilities; a goodly amount of the novel is devoted to the ethics of such power. Of course, he also gets to travel more along the worldlines, enjoying encounters with new and more powerful enemies.
Highly recommended for Modesitt fans and for anyone else who enjoys tales of magical powers and speculations on responsibilities and ethical restraints.
-Arthur W. Jordin

Ringworld's Children
Ringworld's Children
by Larry Niven
Edition: Hardcover
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5.0 out of 5 stars Hot War in the Ringworld System, June 23 2004
This review is from: Ringworld's Children (Hardcover)
Ringworld's Children is the fourth novel in the Ringworld series, following The Ringworld Throne. In Ringworld, Louis Wu had encountered a very large patch of sunflowers, but except for a minor incident that left Speaker to Animals hairless and charred, his party managed to hide from their reflected sunbeams during the day. In The Ringworld Engineers, Louis had boiled a sea, providing enough time for the locals to weed out the mirrored plants, but also left a legacy of clouds that remained in the region.
In The Ringworld Throne, these clouds allowed the Shadow Nest vampires to greatly increase their hunting range and thus their food supply, resulting into a local population explosion of these predators. When Valavirgillin and the Farsight Trading company arrived in the region, they soon found themselves under attack by the vampires and the Machine People joined forces with various local hominids to attack the vampire lair. They gained access to the floating city and turned on the bottomside lighting system, thus driving the vampires out of their sheltered enclave and forcing them to scatter throughout the region.
Elsewhere in The Ringworld Throne, Louis, Acolyte and the Hindmost were captured by a vampire protector, whom Louis named Bram. He and his mate Anne have gained control of the Meteor Defense room and now Bram has started using the meteor defense system to destroy ships from the various known space species. Louis lured the Ghoul Tunesmith into the tree-of-life garden, where he underwent the change to protector. Then Louis and his associates cooperated with these vampire protectors while they fought other vampire protectors for control of the rimwall. Anne was killed by the rimwall protectors and Bram was injured. When Bran returned from the rimwall, Tunesmith ambushed him and, with a timely diversion by Acolyte, overcame him.
In this novel, in 2893 AD, Louis Wu awakes under a coffin lid in the nanotech superdoc; he has been in the 'doc for 84 days and hasn't felt this good in two centuries. However, Tunesmith has been very busy while Louis was undergoing treatment. He has negotiated an agreement with the Spill Mountain protectors. He also has moved Hot Needle of Inquiry back under Olympus Mons, sliced it open, and removed various components. The superdoc is spread out on the cavern floor, as is the repaired hyperdrive (maybe Louis can go home afterall).
However, the Fringe War has heated up again. Warships from the ARM, Kzinti, Trinocs and other, unknown aliens abound within the system; even the Puppeteers and Outsiders have sent observers. Tunesmith has made plans to hijack the Long Shot, which is being used as a courier for the Kzinti. He has also made Hanging People protectors and is using them to pilot probes against his opponents. He sends Probe One out to agitate the Patriarchy command ship Diplomat, which is trying to link with the Long Shot. The probe thwarts the rendezvous, but is destroyed by an anti-matter bullet.
Tunesmith has made some changes to the hyperdrives and can use them in near space. First he fires Probe Two out of the linear accelerator launcher and then sends Hot Needle of Inquiry immediately after it. Probe Two acts both as a decoy and a test vehicle for the new hyperdrive. It jinks and curves and then disappears ... but returns a quarter million miles ahead. Then the ARM and Patriarchy notice the Needle and soon beams and missiles begin to converge on them. The Needle goes into hyperdrive and gains a quarter million miles on the targeting systems.
The Needle avoids the warships as it travels out to the periphery of the system, where it takes a hyperspace jump back to the other side only ten light-minutes from the Long Shot. Approaching the rendezvous point, a pulse of the hyperdrive bypasses two guard ships and the Needle dives on the Long Shot as it attaches to the Diplomat. It touches sides with the Long Shot and a "glue" stuff causes the Needle to adhere to the other ship; the Needle then accelerates at ten gravities, tearing the Long Shot away from the Diplomat. Tunesmith, Acolyte and Louis storm aboard the Long Shot, but the fight is over before Louis can reach the other cabin.
In this story, Tunesmith discovers something new about hyperspace: it is populated with living creatures, including ship-eating predators. Thus, hyperspace can be used within a gravity well as long as the ship returns to normalspace quickly. He now plans to learn even more about the quantized velocity of hyperspace using the Long Shot. Meanwhile, the Needle aerobrakes through the sun and returns to Ringworld, where it dives through an eye storm into the sea, out one meteor hole, and into another, and then hides beneath the sea.
Two ARM craft follow the Needle in the eye storm, but lose it under the sea. They are attacked by two other ships and an ARM craft disappears within an anti-matter explosion. The blast blows a wide hole in the sea, sucking out the remains of the eye storm into space. Tunesmith deploys his experimental meteor patch to the new hole and sends Louis to observe.
The other ARM craft lands on the ring and Louis joins them while pretending to be "Luis", a young Ringworld resident. The Hanging People protector who piloted Probe Two, Hanuman, pretends to be Luis' pet and also accompanies the ARM party. Later, Wembleth, a native of indeterminate species, travels with the group, as does Proserphina, one of the oldest protectors on Ringworld, who has been exiled to the Isolation Zone for millennia while her descendants have been running free on the Map of Earth.
This story is too short and abrupt -- it is less than 300 pages long -- and there is plenty of space for clarification and follow throughs, but it still provides some interesting new concepts and scenery. All the protectors seem to have consented to follow Tunesmith as the Master Protector. Of course, Tunesmith doesn't give many clues as to his plans, but you can take for granted that they are BIG; everything on the Ringworld is oversized, after all, and only BIG plans have any chance of saving the ring from the careless hands of the anti-matter wielders.
Recommended for Niven fans and for anyone else who enjoys tales of strange sentients in an even stranger environment.
-Arthur W. Jordin

The Fires of Paratime
The Fires of Paratime
by L. E. Modesitt
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
18 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars The Time Meddlers, June 14 2004
The Fires of Paratime is the original novel in the Paratime set. A much expanded version of this novel became the second volume in the Timegod duology.
In this novel, Loki is born into a world of virtual immortals. Most of them have some inherent ability to timedive; that is, to travel through time and space without external assistance. Long ago, their society was disrupted by the Frost Giants -- energy eaters who can timedive -- and the technological and manufacturing infrastructure was mostly destroyed. Now the Temporal Guard supplies the population with high tech items bought or stolen from other societies throughout time and space, but fewer and fewer Guard personnel have the abilities needed to maintain this equipment.
Despite efforts by his parents to make him aware of the deficiencies of the organization, Loki follows in his grandfather's footsteps and joins the Temporal Guard. He goes through years of training and gains a reputation as a heavy hitter, with very strong abilities. He is used to transport the more massive items over greater distances in space and time.
Eventually Loki finds a permanent position in maintenance. There he learns patience, foresight and technique from Baldur. He also becomes friends with Sammis and Wryan, learning a lot about unarmed and armed combat. However, he has a enemy in Heimdall, who tries to kill him, but is outfoxed and injured by his own boobytrap. After this incident, the Tribunes send Loki to Hell while Heimdall recovers in the Infirmary, but Loki's equipment is sabotaged by Heimdall's confederates and he almost dies. The lackeys are given chronolobotomies and discharged from the Guard, but Heimdall is not punished.
When Loki recovers from his stint in Hell, he becomes less impulsive and more paranoid. After all, Heimdall is really out to get him. However, the Tribunes protect him to a great extent because he keeps successfully performing impossible assignments that most Guards can't handle. Then the Temporal Guard encounters the sharks.
Gradually Loki begins to comprehend the defects and injustices within the system. He is beginning to get a reputation as the premier timediver, even though he is relatively junior. Some people try to use him as the figurehead for a movement to change the Guard.
This novels depicts the rise and fall of a culture that basically becomes parasitic on other societies within reach of its timedivers. Unlike Piper's Paratime culture, the Queryans are not traders, but scavengers. As with Piper's series, the Queryans begin to obsess over the Paratime secret, even modifying other societies to eliminate all effective knowledge of the nature of time.
Highly recommended for Modesitt fans and for anyone else who enjoys tales of young people struggling to understand their society and their own abilities while trying to do the right thing.
-Arthur W. Jordin

Red Slippers
Red Slippers
by Dennis Mckiernan
Edition: Hardcover
17 used & new from CDN$ 2.87

5.0 out of 5 stars Questions Resolved and Raised, June 12 2004
This review is from: Red Slippers (Hardcover)
Red Slippers is the fifteenth volume in the Mithgar series. Although it is a collection of twelve tales, most contain more than one yarn shared among the crew and friends of the elvenship Eroean as they sit before the hearth in the common room of the Red Slipper. Little action other than drinking, laughing and fighting occur in these tales, but the yarns themselves tell of death, destruction and defeat as well as courage, determination and triumph.
Seventeen millennia afore, the First Era began with the crowning of Awain as the High King of Mithgar, the realm formed by the merger of Pellar, Jugo, Hoven, Valon, both Riamonds, and Garia. Much has happened in the intervening years, some known to all, some known only to a few, and much known only to the gods. These tales reveal something of those little known occurrences, yet raise other questions which hopefully will be answered in future works.
In this collection, the Eroean sails in Port Arbalin after a long and dangerous voyage to the long-dead Lost City of Jade. Since some of the crew were lost during the adventure, the remainder will have a long layover while replacements for the slain Drimma are recruited. Thus many of the crew are staying at the Red Slipper rather than onboard.
After toasting absent friends, the crew start telling tales. First is the myth of Gelvin's Doom as told by Noddy, but Aravan can't help thinking of the real events as found in Gelvin's diary and the evidence of his corpse. Then Aravan tells of events which happened at a well in the desert, involving a giant black worm-like bloodsucking creature. Afterwards they talk about tokens of great power and a confrontation between Modru and the Elven smith Dwynfor.
As these yarns are told, Pipper and Bington and Aylissa and Wooly and the others interrupt with questions and comments and sometimes the conversation goes off on a tangent with another story before returning to the original yarn. Vex the fox wanders out and comes back with a great fat brown wharf rat as a present for Fat Jim. Some crewmembers drink too much Vornholt ale, fall flat on their faces, are carried off to bed, and have a terrible hangover the next morning. After a while, four more friends -- Urus, Ritha, Bair, and Jaith -- sail into port on their way back to report on their mission to destroy the Black Throne of Hadron's Hall and they add a few yarns of their own.
In case you didn't notice, this work is set in a bordello and has all the rowdy, lusty ambiance one would expect. However, do not expect tidy little packets of fiction with clear-cut beginnings and endings, for these stories actually intertwine among themselves as well as with all that has gone before. Imagine yourself before a fire in the company of boisterous friends and with a tankard in your hand, ready to discuss the entire history of the world with some of those who helped make it!
Highly recommended for McKiernan fans and for anyone else who enjoy tales in the Tolkien tradition.
-Arthur W. Jordin

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