Elizabeth Moon SF binge

January 3, 2010 at 10:23 pm (science fiction) ()

Back in June, I went on a binge of reading Elizabeth Moon SF.  This happens every now and then, since I have a bunch of it on the shelf and the books are, as they say, good clean fun.

Actually I started off with The Planet Pirates, a 1993 omnibus of three books co-written by Anne McCaffrey, Elizabeth Moon, and Jody Lynn Nye.  The series follows the occasionally intersecting lives of Sassinak (kidnapped as a child by pirates, rescued, goes on to do very well in the Space Navy) and her ancestress Lunzie Mespil (doctor and serial victim of long sessions in coldsleep).  They’re good reads, though I think the different world-building ideas of the authors don’t always mesh well.  There’s also some good stuff about prejudice and radicalization, and though I’m not 100% convinced by the series of events that led up to it, any space opera series that ends with a shootout on the floor of the interplanetary legislature is doing its job (IMHO).

Next up was the three volumes I own of Moon’s Esmay Suiza series (Once a Hero (1997), Rules of Engagement (1998), and Change of Command (1999).  These are in the same setting as the Heris Serrano books, using some of the same characters, and follow Suiza’s adventures in bureaucracy, dark family secrets, and warfare.  Among other things.  I like Esmay, but I don’t feel the plotting in these is as strong as in the other series.

There is, to my taste, a little too much Historical Event plotting, and not enough Character plotting, with the latter being defined for my purposes as plotting that revolves around the main character(s) being the reason for the novel’s existence in the first place.  Contrariwise, with an excess of Historical Event plotting, exploring and extending the history tends tries to take over as the novel’s raison d’être.  I don’t mind a space opera’s plot having important historical impact, but I prefer the balance to come down more on the character’s side than history’s.

For example – I finished up this binge with Moon’s Remnant Population (2003), in which a First Second Contact with an alien species is successfully conducted by a geriatric retired housewife/farmer because she stayed behind when the corporation that sponsored (but didn’t adequately support) loses its franchise and yanks everybody off.  I particularly like this book because it departs from SF’s tendency to focus on the strong, well-educated, upper echelons of society (even including, please, those characters who got there by hard work etc.).   Ofelia is something that Americans in particular don’t like to think about:  A member of a (putatively) economically and technologically advanced society who was systematically denied the opportunity to reach her full potential (heck, even a tiny fragment of her potential) for her entire life.   The book is really all about Ofelia, and her successful attempt to break out of the mold she’s always been cramped into.   It’s a great, if partly dystopic and occasionally depressing, story (with a positive ending, mind), and I heartily recommend it (it’s still in print in paperback).


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