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Wanda's Book Reviews

I am currently reading my way through a long list of science fiction and fantasy titles.  (http://www.npr.org/2011/08/07/138938145/science-fiction-and-fantasy-finalists if you are interested in the list).

Currently reading

A Symphony of Echoes
Jodi Taylor
The Reality Dysfunction
Peter F. Hamilton

TBR Thursday

A Symphony of Echoes - Jodi Taylor Thank You, Jeeves - P.G. Wodehouse Lifeblood - P.N. Elrod Bloodcircle - P.N. Elrod

The last of my library books. When these are done, I must start in on the stacks of unread books on my shelves. What hardship! (Not really)


I think I may have to venture out tomorrow for groceries. I am in dire need of bread and eggs.  If I'm going to keep baking, I'll want baking powder and sugar. And I'm going to keep baking. A woman needs apocalypse snacks.


Stay healthy, friends.

Proof of Life

Thought I would drop a line to let you know that I am alive & healthy here in Calgary.


I have finally joined the 20th century (maybe I'll join the 21st next week) and I now have internet at home. The technician & I did a complicated dance yesterday, as he was not allowed in my suite for health reasons. I took a lot of photos with my tablet and then he would instruct me on what to do next. Achoo! I need to do some dusting!


For some reason, I can't seem to paste text into these text boxes with my tablet, so you will get a tidal wave of reviews when I buy a laptop or the public library reopens, whichever comes first.


How are you all, my friends? I have missed you!

Three Men in a Boat / Jerome K. Jerome

Three Men in a Boat - Jerome K. Jerome

Martyrs to hypochondria and general seediness, J. and his friends George and Harris decide that a jaunt up the Thames would suit them to a 'T'. But when they set off, they can hardly predict the troubles that lie ahead with tow-ropes, unreliable weather forecasts and tins of pineapple chunks - not to mention the devastation left in the wake of J.'s small fox-terrier Montmorency. Three Men in a Boat was an instant success when it appeared in 1889, and, with its benign escapism, authorial discursions and wonderful evocation of the late-Victorian 'clerking classes', it hilariously captured the spirit of its age.


This book reminded me of some not-so-successful camping trips that I took in my early twenties! Back in the day when I was willing to sleep in a tent and on inadequate padding on the ground. These are learning experiences, as you cope with rain that prevents comfortable hiking, mosquitoes & blackflies that prevent comfortable cooking, and forgotten items that could have made the trip better.

Who hasn’t brought canned food and forgotten the can opener? I read the pineapple tin scene with amusement! And I think even casual picnickers have had food disasters! As youngsters, we overestimate our abilities, learning that our cooking or navigating skills are not as advanced as we thought. Inedible food and getting lost are all part of learning to make our way in life.

Most of all, Jerome reminds us that we shouldn’t waste too much time trying to be “good.”

In the church is a memorial to Mrs Sarah Hill, who bequested £1 annually, to be divided at Easter, between two boys and two girls who “have never been undutiful to their parents; who have never been know to swear or to tell untruths, to steal, or to break windows.” Fancy giving up all that for five shillings a year! It is not worth it.

I find myself agreeing with him wholeheartedly. We must fling ourselves into life!

Dr. Edith Vane and the Hares of Crawley Hall / Suzette Mayr

Dr. Edith Vane and the Hares of Crawley Hall - Suzette Mayr

Dr. Edith Vane, scholar of English literature, is contentedly ensconced at the University of Inivea. Her dissertation on pioneer housewife memoirist Beulah Crump-Withers is about to be published, and she's on track for tenure, if only she can fill out her AAO properly. She's a little anxious, but a new floral blouse and her therapist's repeated assurance that she is the architect of her own life should fix that. All should be well, really. Except for her broken washing machine, her fickle new girlfriend, her missing friend Coral, her backstabbing fellow professors, a cutthroat new dean—and the fact that the sentient and malevolent Crawley Hall has decided it wants them all out, and the hall and its hellish hares will stop at nothing to get rid of them.


The University of Inivea, huh? Well the author works at the same University that I retired from and they have a lot of parallels. There’s a hall designed in the brutalist style of Crawley Hall and I do remember a sink hole in the parking lot one year. I’ve had coffee in the Jungle (and I remember the coffee in the odd cardboard cups). I’ve dealt with the online ‘portal’ that employees use and filled out the horrible adminospeak forms required. Nineteen of my former coworkers were “refreshed” just last month.

Edith Vane (or is that Vain?) is exactly what conservative provincial politicians think of as an instructor in higher education. She’s a liberal, frumpy, lumpy lesbian who writes inexplicable articles for arcane academic journals and books that no regular person will ever pick up. It turns out that her barista girlfriend can mark essays just as effectively as Edith can. Edith is a frantic neurotic who is desperate to hang onto her university position (or as conservative politicians like to phrase it, “suck from the public teat.”)

Dr. Vane is chronically unprepared and is an uninspiring instructor. Mayr shows us how time crunched academics are, with teaching, researching, writing and dealing with students. In my own experience, the vast majority of my instructors were interesting and organized, so I’m assuming that Edith is a caricature in order to make a point of that.

Very interesting to read a book set in a world that I’m very familiar with.


I took a bulging bag of books to my local used book store on Friday.  I ended up with $65 worth of credit, some of which got used immediately on a selection of books I've been looking for.


Behold, the book haul:




It was a good day!

The House at Sea's End / Elly Griffiths

The House at Sea's End - Elly Griffiths

Forensic archeologist Dr. Ruth Galloway is back, this time investigating a gruesome World War II war crime.  Now the beloved forensic archeologist returns, called in to investigate when human bones surface on a remote Norfolk beach.  


Just back from maternity leave, Ruth is finding it hard to juggle motherhood and work. The presence of DCI Harry Nelson—the married father of her daughter, Kate—does not help. The bones turn out to be about seventy years old, which leads Nelson and Ruth to the war years, a desperate time on this stretch of coastland. Home Guard veteran Archie Whitcliffe reveals the existence of a secret that the old soldiers have vowed to protect with their lives. But then Archie is killed and a German journalist arrives, asking questions about Operation Lucifer, a plan to stop a German invasion, and a possible British war crime. What was Operation Lucifer? And who is prepared to kill to keep its secret?


This is an example of what I truly enjoy in a mystery series--the combination of the mystery in each book and the relationships between the main characters that carry on between the books. Griffiths is developing a number of the secondary characters too. I am particularly fond of the Cathbad, the druid, with his penchant for showing up unexpectedly but at just the right moment.

The main character, Ruth, is juggling an academic career and a baby and is finding the balancing act difficult. As an older mother and a woman who really didn’t ever spend any time in her life dreaming of weddings or babies, she feels out of step with the other mothers around her. And there are always people willing to judge without knowing the circumstances--just ask any mommy blogger! This is the reality that even married women with careers must face, that they will be judged for going back to work instead of devoting themselves to full-time motherhood. Frankly, I’d rather stick needles in my eyes than get relegated to domesticity, so I’m pretty sympathetic to Ruth’s situation.

Harry isn’t the guy that I would choose. He kind of isn’t the guy that Ruth would choose either, it just happened. But you know, I like him a lot better when I see him trying to bond with this baby! Maybe he’s not the complete jerk that I have been imagining for the first two books.

If you enjoy the setting for this series, I would also recommend A Siege of Bitterns by Steve Burrows. It also takes place in the Norfolk area, with the same darkly looming environment. It’s protagonist, Domenic Jejune is also a specialist, just in birds not archaeology. If it’s the relationships that entice you, try In the Bleak Midwinter, the first book in Julia Spencer-Fleming’s The Rev. Claire Fergusson and Russ Van Alstyne mystery series. Like this series, Spencer-Fleming’s series keeps me reading to find out where Claire and Russ are headed.

I like all three series, so if we have similar reading tastes, I would encourage you to sample them all.

February / Lisa Moore

February - Lisa Moore

In 1982, the oil rig Ocean Ranger sank off the coast of Newfoundland during a Valentine's Day storm. All eighty-four men aboard died. February is the story of Helen O'Mara, one of those left behind when her husband, Cal, drowns on the rig. It begins in the present-day, more than twenty-five years later, but spirals back again and again to the "February" that persists in Helen's mind and heart.

Writing at the peak of her form, her steadfast refusal to sentimentalize coupled with an almost shocking ability to render the precise details of her characters' physical and emotional worlds, Lisa Moore gives us her strongest work yet. Here is a novel about complex love and cauterizing grief, about past and present and how memory knits them together, about a fiercely close community and its universal struggles, and finally about our need to imagine a future, no matter how fragile, before we truly come home.


Lisa Moore must have lost a significant someone in her life, she writes so eloquently of grief and the process of putting one’s life back together again after a tremendous loss. In addition to that, she writes like a dream! The combination makes this an excellent book.

”Helen unlocks her front door holding an armful of groceries, and there are three empty floors and silence. It is a relief. Solitude, she thinks, is a time-release drug, it enters the system slowly and you become addicted. It’s not an addiction; it’s a craft. You open the closet doors very carefully so loneliness doesn’t pounce out.”

Moore leads the reader through jumps in time, from when Helen O’Mara had first met her husband, the births of their three children, his death in the Ocean Ranger oil rig disaster, and the hard work that the family does to overcome this tragic loss. If you’ve read about the stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, acceptance), you’ll recognize them all. Also their recurring nature, repeating on you when you least expect it.

There’s no such thing as closure, but there is such a thing as building a new life. Some days, you have to retreat to your bedroom and hide from the world and some days, like Helen in her yoga class, you can say, “I am ready for the warrior poses.”

A Crown of Swords / Robert Jordan

A Crown of Swords - Robert    Jordan

In this volume, Elayne, Aviendha, and Mat come ever closer to the bowl ter'angreal that may reverse the world's endless heat wave and restore natural weather. Egwene begins to gather all manner of women who can channel--Sea Folk, Windfinders, Wise Ones, and some surprising others. And above all, Rand faces the dread Forsaken Sammael, in the shadows of Shadar Logoth, where the blood-hungry mist, Mashadar, waits for prey.


I think I’m losing steam as this series keeps getting drawn out! I started this tome somewhat reluctantly, thinking, “Jeez, book 7. You’d think the guy could wind this up!” And he really does seem to dawdle along with the action. We follow so many characters and get nitty gritty detail about each one. Although I prefer fantasy over every other genre, I sometimes feel this series really pushes my patience!

But here’s the thing--Jordan knows how to END an installment. Suddenly, in the last pages of the book, stuff happens! Things that startle and intrigue. Things that make you wonder what will happen in the NEXT book. This is what this author excels at--ending with a bang that sends the reader on to the next volume. For example, the return of Lan. Unexpected, but welcome.

So I started with relative indifference but I will look forward to The Path of Daggers.

Book number 356 in my Science Fiction and Fantasy reading project.

The Sparrow / Mary Doria Russell

The Sparrow - Mary Doria Russell

In 2019, humanity finally finds proof of extraterrestrial life when a listening post in Puerto Rico picks up exquisite singing from a planet that will come to be known as Rakhat. While United Nations diplomats endlessly debate a possible first contact mission, the Society of Jesus quietly organizes an eight-person scientific expedition of its own. What the Jesuits find is a world so beyond comprehension that it will lead them to question what it means to be "human". 


4.25 stars

I enjoy First Contact stories and this was a particularly good one. I think my enjoyment of it was increased by reading it soon after Bush Runner: The Adventures of Pierre-Esprit Radisson, about a man who worked (sometimes with, sometimes against) the Jesuits in 17th century French Canada. Since a Jesuit priest, Emilio, is the main character in this novel, the historical context really helped me to appreciate him and his actions.

I found the switching between chapters set on Earth and those set on Rakhat to be very effective. Russell could reveal just enough in one setting to make the reader think they know something and then in the next section show how our assumptions can be dead wrong.

Although I thought that the humans’ easy ability to eat the flora and fauna of Rakhat to be a bit unlikely, I found their confusion and incorrect assumptions about the beings that they encountered to be wholly believable. Despite Emilio’s extreme talent as a linguist and language learner, it is difficult enough for us to understand the cultures of other Earthlings, let alone that of beings on another planet.

It wasn’t until the very last pages of the book that the title became clear to me, but once it came into focus, I appreciated it’s subtlety. A very interesting book and one which I will continue to think about for days to come.

Book number 355 in my Science Fiction and Fantasy reading project.

The Sanctuary Sparrow / Ellis Peters

The Sanctuary Sparrow  - Ellis Peters

In the gentle Shrewsbury spring of 1140, the midnight matins at the Benedictine abbey suddenly reverberate with an unholy sound—a hunt in full cry. Persued by a drunken mob, the quarry is running for its life. When the frantic creature bursts into the nave to claim sanctuary, Brother Cadfael finds himself fighting off armed townsmen to save a terrified young man. Accused of robbery and murder is Liliwin, a wandering minstrel who performed at the wedding of a local goldsmith's son. The cold light of morning, however, will show his supposed victim, the miserly craftsman, still lives, although a strongbox lies empty. Brother Cadfael believes Liliwin is innocent, but finding the truth and the treasure before Liliwin's respite in sanctuary runs out may uncover a deadlier sin than thievery—a desperate love that nothing, not even the threat of hanging, can stop.


It’s been quite a while since I visited Brother Cadfael and perhaps because of that time lapse, I really enjoyed this novel. There truly aren’t too many options for murder in the 12th century, so one story is very like the last. I would classify these books as “cozy mysteries,” and it surprises me how much I like them, not usually being a fan of the cozy. I think it’s the historical nature of the tales that grabs me. It’s like learning history by osmosis while enjoying a good story.

Probably it also helped that I felt like I was getting away with something! I have a stack of previously signed out library books and theoretically this one should have waited until I made some progress on them. Instead, I plunged into this one right away and finished it in only an evening.

Peters does such a wonderful job of populating the abbey with the full spectrum of human frailties! The arrogant, the snob, the teacher, the compassionate, the seeker of justice, everybody is present and we get to observe their interactions. Her grasp of human behaviour is so accurate!

The result may not be tremendously surprising, but the journey is always enjoyable.

Bush Runner / Mark Bourrie

Bush Runner : the Adventures of Pierre-Esprit Radisson - Mark Bourrie

Murderer. Salesman. Pirate. Adventurer. Cannibal. Co-founder of the Hudson's Bay Company.

Known to some as the first European to explore the upper Mississippi, and widely as the namesake of ships and hotel chains, Pierre-Esprit Radisson is perhaps best described, writes Mark Bourrie, as “an eager hustler with no known scruples.” Kidnapped by Mohawk warriors at the age of fifteen, Radisson assimilated and was adopted by a powerful family, only to escape to New York City after less than a year. After being recaptured, he defected from a raiding party to the Dutch and crossed the Atlantic to Holland—thus beginning a lifetime of seized opportunities and frustrated ambitions.

A guest among First Nations communities, French fur traders, and royal courts; witness to London’s Great Plague and Great Fire; and unwitting agent of the Jesuits’ corporate espionage, Radisson double-crossed the English, French, Dutch, and his adoptive Mohawk family alike, found himself marooned by pirates in Spain, and lived through shipwreck on the reefs of Venezuela. His most lasting venture as an Artic fur trader led to the founding of the Hudson’s Bay Company, which operates today, 350 years later, as North America’s oldest corporation.


I remember first hearing about Radisson and Groseilliers in about Grade 5, when I think they were called “explorers” or “fur traders.” I also recall my mother calling them Radishes and Gooseberries. Imagine my surprise to find that Groseilliers actually does mean gooseberries!

In many ways, Pierre-Esprit Radisson is a better and a worse man than you would expect from the few facts that I encountered in grade school. He seems to have been able to roll along with whatever situation he encountered, looking for an upside or an opportunity. He also seems to have had a natural aptitude for languages which stood him in good stead. On the poor side, he seemed to be motivated almost entirely by profit and was willing to abandon or double-cross his friends and business partners whenever it was convenient for him.

Why should we be interested in the man? As the author states in his introduction: He’s living with Indigenous people in North America. He’s with Charles II of England and his court of scoundrels, traitors, and ex-pirates. He’s in England during the Great Plague. He’s in London during the Great Fire. He’s set upon by spies. He’s in the Arctic. Then he’s with pirates in the Caribbean. After that, he’s at Versailles. And then the Arctic again. Along the way, he crosses paths with the most interesting people of his day. He’s the Forrest Gump of his time.

I can’t help but think that Radisson could have achieved a lot more if he hadn’t been quite so fixated on the fur trade. He could have lived a good life among the Iroquois or the Mohawk, but his restless nature wouldn’t let him settle. A bit of a conman, he couldn’t happily just live a normal life.

The Innocents / Michael Crummey

The Innocents - Michael Crummey

A brother and sister are orphaned in an isolated cove on Newfoundland's northern coastline. Their home is a stretch of rocky shore governed by the feral ocean, by a relentless pendulum of abundance and murderous scarcity. Still children with only the barest notion of the outside world, they have nothing but the family's boat and the little knowledge passed on haphazardly by their mother and father to keep them.

As they fight for their own survival through years of meagre catches and storms and ravaging illness, it is their fierce loyalty to each other that motivates and sustains them. But as seasons pass and they wade deeper into the mystery of their own natures, even that loyalty will be tested.


If you love beautiful language, this is the book for you. Crummey incorporates plenty of unique Newfoundland-isms into the text, but you can figure out what they mean quite easily from the context. I love language and words, so I found this new vocabulary to be quite intoxicating.

And what a story! A boy of 12 and a girl of 10 living in a remote cove of Newfoundland, orphaned and trying to carry on as they did when their parents were alive. The author got the premise of the story from an article in an old Newfoundland newspaper that featured two young people seeing off a clergyman with a gun in response to criticism (the girl was pregnant). In this novel, the children are raised by two people who seemed to barely speak, nor do they know how to read or write, no neighbours or relatives, no radio, no contact with the outside world. They are indeed innocents.

Crummey harkens back to the Genesis story: there are overtones of Cain and Abel in the story of Sennet Best and the brother that he seems to have murdered in order to gain the affections of Sarah, the children’s mother. And then of course Ada and Evered are completely ignorant about virtually everything, including sex. Can you imagine going through those turbulent teenage years with no clue what is happening to you? When Ada’s complete sex education consists of her mother’s warning, “Soon you’ll be getting your monthly visitor.”

The hardship they face and the challenges that they overcome are incredible. But you never know what you can do until you are faced with difficulty and they rise to the challenge. The triumph of the human spirit over ignorance.

Callahan's Legacy / Spider Robinson

Callahan's Legacy - Spider Robinson

For years, Callahan's was the place where friends met to have a few drinks, tell a few jokes, and occasionally save the world. Until that unfortunate incident with the nuke a few years ago....

But Jake Stonebender and his wife have opened a new Callahan's, Mary's Place, and all the regulars are there: Doc Webster, Fast Eddie the piano player, Long Drink McGonnigle, and of course the usual talking dogs, alcoholic vampires, aliens, and time travelers. Songs will be sung, drinks will be drunk (and drunks will have drinks), puns will be swapped...and as a three-eyed, three-legged, three-armed, three-everythinged alien flashes through space toward the bar, it just might be time to save the world again....


Suffice it to say that if you like Robinson’s Callahan novels, you will like this one. This offering was perhaps a bit better than the previous volumes or perhaps the series is growing on me (like a fungus). Something about Robinson’s voice in these books irritates the shit out of me--to me he sounds rather smugly self-satisfied. I hope that I’m wrong on that, but that’s my experience.

This story hasn’t aged well, being specific about certain computer and internet details as it is. It is definitely a creature of 1996. Also, be prepared for a LOT of pun-ishment. The puns are a characteristic of this series, but if you are allergic to this form of humour you may wish to pop an antihistamine before wading in.

Book number 354 in my Science Fiction and Fantasy reading project.

The Gap into Ruin : This Day All Gods Die / Stephen R. Donaldson

The Gap Into Ruin: This Day All Gods Die - Stephen R. Donaldson

As the crew attempts to pursue the pirate ship Soar and her captain, their hopes turn to Angus Thermopyle. Angus, Morn Hyland, and her son, Davies, race home, unaware that Warden Dios and The Dragon are locked in a final confrontation that may alter the fate of humankind forever.


Put a mark on the wall, I actually enjoyed a SRD book! Nevertheless, I’m glad to be finished this particular series and know where all the chips have fallen. I will give Donaldson this, he is particularly skillful at recognizing when to end a chapter and when to switch view-points. I found his timing in this book to be right on the money.

I don’t require likeable characters, but for whatever reason, I find SRD’s characters to be particularly difficult to care about. What I could get into was the downfall of Holt Fasner (and the eventual release of Norna, omg I felt for that woman despite her unpleasantness).

It may have been Frank Herbert who wrote about “wheels within wheels” when writing about plots, but Donaldson wrote the superior plotting and backstabbing novels with this series. All the twisty, turny bits required close attention to know who was fooling whom. And Donaldson’s characters do it without spice to see into the future.

Book number 353 in my Science Fiction and Fantasy reading project.

Bleak Seasons / Glen Cook

Bleak Seasons - Glen Cook

"Let me tell you who I am, on the chance that these scribblings do survive....I am Murgen, Standard bearer of the Black Company, though I bear the shame of having lost that standard in battle. I am keeping these Annals because Croaker is dead. One-Eye won't, and hardly anyone else can read or write. I will be your guide for however long it takes the Shadowlanders to force our present predicament to its inevitable end..." So writes Murgen, seasoned veteran of the Black Company. The Company has taken the fortress of Stormgard from the evil Shadowlanders, lords of darkness from the far reaches of the earth. Now the waiting begins.

Exhausted from the siege, beset by sorcery, and vastly outnumbered, the Company have risked their souls as well as their lives to hold their prize. But this is the end of an age, and great forces are at work. The ancient race known as the Nyueng Bao swear that ancient gods are stirring. the Company's commander has gone mad and flirts with the forces of darkness. Only Murgen, touched by a spell that has set his soul adrift in time, begins at last to comprehend the dark design that has made pawns of men and god alike.



It’s been a while since I last checked in on the Black Company. If you had asked me several years ago whether I would enjoy really dark military science fiction in a threatening fantasy world, I would have said, “No.” And I would have been quite definite about that. But I find myself really enjoying The Black Company series and this surprises me.

The Company itself is an eclectic mix of societal rejects who have banded together as mercenaries to earn a living and provide a kind of support group for each other. You can’t really call any of them likeable, and yet you find yourself glad to see the familiar faces: Goblin, One Eye, Big Bucket, Croaker, and Murgen (who is our narrator for this section of the Annals).

Cook manages to show us how awful warfare is, how neither side is right/good, and how much brutality accompanies war, all while entertaining us with the antics of the two wizards or the negotiation attempts of Murgen with various factions within the besieged city of Dejagore (what language are they speaking today? Or more importantly, claiming not to understand). Maybe you consider the Company men to be uneducated, but then they start speaking six or seven languages or building complex structures or negotiating their way out of bad situations, and it seems that they have learned quite a bit on the job.

Although the fantasy world is mostly medieval in technology, Cook uses a modern tone to the dialog. This combination doesn’t always work for me, but in this series it seems to mesh. I already have the next book in the series teed up and ready to go!

Book number 352 in my Science Fiction and Fantasy reading project.


Inheritor / C.J. Cherryh

Inheritor - C.J. Cherryh

Six months have passed since the reappearance of the starship Phoenix—the same ship which brought a colony of humans to the hostile environment of alien atevi nearly two hundred years ago. During these six months, the atevi have reconfigured their fledgling space program in a bid to take their place in the heavens alongside humans. But the return of the Phoenix has added a frighteningly powerful third party to an already volatile situation, polarizing both human and atevi political factions, and making the possibility of all-out planetary war an even more likely threat.

On the atevi mainland, human ambassador Bren Cameron, in a desperate attempt to maintain the peace, has arranged for one human representative from the Phoenix to take up residence with him in his apartments, and for another to be stationed on Mosphiera, humanity's island enclave. Bren himself is unable to return home for fear of being arrested or assassinated by the powerful arch conservative element who wish to bar the atevi from space. Desperately trying to keep abreast of the atevi associations, how can Bren possibly find a way to save two species from a three-sided conflict that no one can win?


Still very much enjoying this series and C.J. Cherryh’s writing. I love the complexities that she forces her main character, Bren, to deal with. His job is supposed to be translating between humans and atevi on the atevi’s planet. It sounds simple, but there are humans involved here and wherever there are at least three humans (or chimpanzees) there will be politics. So he must deal with human factions and humans are rank amateurs at intrigue compared to the atevi! Add to that mix the long-lost interplantary ship which has returned to look for the humans that it left behind, and the situation becomes even more complex. The atevi believe that a ship full of humans will undoubtedly side with the planet-side humans and have a hard time believing Bren that humans aren’t a monolithic group.

I think Cherryh must have studied colonial histories, perhaps Britain and India or similar patterns, to help her structure a believable narrative. The humans planet-side are so sure of their technological superiority that they get complacent and let their skills slip. They are arrogant because they overestimate their position and under-estimate the skills of the native population, the atevi.

Cherryh certainly knows how to torment a main character. With all the other complexities, she throws in a human ship representative who seems destined to blow a gasket, a burgeoning romantic relationship for Bren, and deteriorating relations with his family. Watching him negotiate this maze of details is fascinating!

Book number 351 in my Science Fiction and Fantasy reading project.