Review: Ring of Swords

December 31, 2013 at 7:33 pm (science fiction)

Ring of Swords
Ring of Swords by Eleanor Arnason
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is what I call a “thinky” book, where important concepts are front and center; it is sociological science fiction, where it’s not the aliens’ military technology that’s important but their culture, and especially how they wind up interacting with humans.

It’s also very well written, and completely unwilling to give either side all the moral high ground. The book, with the very intelligent and somewhat cold Anna Perez and the very worried Nicholas Sanders at its center, peels back multiple layers of assumptions about gender and power dynamics to expose some very interesting notions about human and alien societies. Not to mention about the myth of “it’s always been this way.”

I don’t think there’s really any way to describe it further without spoiling it and undermining it, too. Just keep going through the somewhat clunky “military intelligence isn’t” setup to get to the main part of the story. I think it compares favorably to certain high concept SF by the likes of C. J. Cherryh and Ursula K. LeGuin.

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