Book Reviews

Remnant Population by Elizabeth Moon (Spoiler Warning)

This is a science fiction story set on a new planet where a human colony has been established for forty years. The main character is Ofelia, a woman in her eighties who lives with her son and daughter-in-law in the colony, which is owned by a corporation. The colonists have established a small localised agricultural community but have not extended beyond it. The corporation decides it is unsustainable and orders the colonists to vacate the planet.

Our hero is depicted as someone who is marginalised by others with little status, being an old widow. Having received little formal education she is viewed as unintelligent and is humoured rather than taken note of. As a result of this she feels surplus to requirements and decides not to leave with the other colonists. She hides, failing to depart with her family. She then lives happily in seclusion in the abandoned colony, tending her garden and caring for the abandoned farm animals. Utility services such as water and electricity have been left intact making her life relatively comfortable until she become aware of an intelligent indigenous species with its own language, society and norms.

The story then recounts her developing understanding of the aliens, followed by the arrival of human officials with a brief to strike up a dialogue with this newly discovered species, disturbing the peaceful status quo being developed by our hero, Ofilia.

I have never read any Elizabeth Moon before and if anyone told me that I would enjoy a story where the central character was an old woman whose favourite pastime was gardening I’d have been very sceptical.

However this book has really held my attention.  At no point did I feel that I was just reading to get to the interesting bit.  I see this as a feminist novel of its day (1996).  I don’t see it being a matter of Ofelia’s intellect or intelligence; I feel that both are demonstrated adequately.  It is more a matter of confidence; the hero’s confidence in her own understanding has been worn down by her place in society as an elderly woman.  Her intelligence in understanding others perception of her is outstanding.  Initially I felt that Moon had been a little lazy and stereotypical in her depiction of the new comers, particularly the ambassador, portraying him as arrogant rude and reckless towards the end of the story. However on reflection, I must admit that I have seen his attitude to others displayed in real life.  There was a striking contrast, while Ofelia displayed the under confidence of a discarded woman, he displayed the over confidence of a man promoted above his ability; having to rely on the authority of his rank to maintain his dignity.

Overall a book that made me think without having to work too hard, which I have rated 4 out of 5 stars on Goodreads.

The Anuan Legacy: Book 1 of The Anuan Legacy Series Kindle Edition

by Traci Ison Schafer

SPOILER WARNING

This book tells the romantic YA sf. story of a young orphaned woman, Victoria, working as an intern for a government agency who helps a crashed alien escape from her employers. In a nut shell it transpires that she is half alien (Anuan) herself and has an emotional link to Gaige, the Anuan escapee who had travelled to earth as part of a larger crew in order to reunite with her. After a brief chase they link emotionally and physically on the alien space ship, going through a sort of marriage ceremony and she meets the other crew members, including her grandfather and her new partner’s parents. Everyone recovers from any injuries they have sustained very quickly and easily thanks to the alien technology. The opposition (including another irredeemable alien race, long standing enemies of the Anuan whom the poor Anuan have previously been forced to ‘ethnically cleanse’ in a war) are overcome for the time being, and the scene is set with the story complete but open for the next volume.

The book is written as a series of short, fast moving chapters, each written from the perspective of one of the leading characters. Although I often find this style difficult to follow, the fast pace and straightforward story line keeps it easy to follow. However, I sometimes found it a bit too sweet and glib for my tastes. Things just seemed to fall into place a bit too comfortably which is why I have scored it 3 stars on Amazon and Library Thing.

Having said that, a pleasant read and a reasonable story to relax with without having to strain yourself to understand what’s going on. I will probably read the next book in the series in due course.

The Night Circus

By Erin Morgenstern

Spoiler Alert!

I remember noticing this book not long after it was first published displayed prominently in a leading bookshop and was almost tempted to buy it. I didn’t because I thought it looked too good to be true, maybe a bit too sugary romance for my tastes. Now, several years later I have given it a try as part of a Goodreads Buddy Read. Looking back over the older posts and reviews I was doubtful again but this time I opted to give it a try.

The story caught my interest straight away, just enough depth for a casual read. By the time I had finished I realised that I had read an amalgam of traditional fairy tale plots put together with an enchanting result. The two battling magicians using younger proxies to fight; the child running away from home to meet their destiny; the magic of twins and the doomed romance.

The plot follows the path of two young lovers, taken under the wing of their respective male guardians whom I can only describe as magicians. The youngsters are trained from an early age to take part in a contest of sorts, centred around a touring circus specifically constructed for that purpose. Other characters, all associated with the circus and who play major roles in the story are introduced. The tale concludes with the contest coming to an end and the lovers coming together to resolve their dilemma in an unexpected but satisfactory manner.

If I have any criticism it is that I did feel the characters were all a bit too accepting of the controlled nature of their paths in life especially the way they had been manipulated by the two conspiring magicians. In particular, I felt a bit uncomfortable by the way the death of one of the circus creators was written. A twin called Tara suffers a fatal accident while trying to unravel what is really happening. It is not the fatality that bothers me but the way in which the death is viewed by other characters in the book, particularly the deceased person’s twin sister. You get the feeling that the attitude is that the death was at least partly self-inflicted because of her curiosity.

Having said the above, this is a minor observation in what I otherwise found to be a thoroughly enjoyable read and I was happy to rate it five stars.

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