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Hoses of the Holy in the Parallel Universe

February 10, 2006

Smart Amazon Recommendation?

Is this a record?

Following my bulk-purchase of the Kristine Kathryn Rusch "Retrieval Artist" series, Amazon kindly recommended that I purchyase City of Pearl by British writer Karen Travis. (Don't read that top reader review, because it's full of bleedin' spoilers!)

And, believe it or not, it's great, and I'm dead chuffed.

Like the Retrieval Artist novels, City of Pearl is set in the future (23rd century), and it involves religion and awkward relations with alien cultures and the things you are - and aren't - allowed to do on a planet not your own.

A group of Christian colonists have set off to Cavanagh's star, sending a single message back to Earth: don't follow. It's assumed they've been lost, but then Shan Frankland is appointed to lead a small expeditionary force on a 150-year round trip... to do what?

The key plot device here is that Frankland is confidentially briefed using smart drugs that only release information into her head piecemeal, so she actually doesn't know her mission, just that she freely agreed to it. She spends her time with things "on the tip of her tongue", as it were, the information just not within reach of her conscious mind.

She leads a group of seven Royal Marines, seven scientists, and one journalist to a beautiful almost-Earthlike planet (less oxygen, higher gravity, longer seasons), where she finds a group of humans living an idyllic pastoral life - but dwelling underground. It turns out they're only barely tolerated by the guardians of the planet, who are quite willing to erase whole cities in order to preserve the planet's ecology.

There's lots of good stuff here about the inability of humans to think of "lower" life-forms as "people," even if they're quite intelligent. And stuff about signs and messages misread, misunderstood, or not even recognised as messages.

All science fiction is about the time in which it is written, whether or not it's set in the future, and it's clear that the post-2001 SF about the fate of a standard set of - problematic term : Western - values in the face of peoples who see the world through quite different filters (the metaphor here is of aliens who can see colours in what we see as clear glass) is very interesting indeed.


  • My Amazon recommendations go from bad to worse. I shouldn't use it as a search engine for book titles or music CDs.

    Back to topic, it is interesting to consider the whole issue of seeing things from a completely different perspective. It's a very difficult thing to do, as we're all full of assumptions, granteds, and unverified beliefs. To some extent you have to be in order just to get on with things.

    It's like I was saying the other day, I'm so caught up in worrying about what will happen when gas/petrol/money runs out that I'd never even thought about the water supply.

    It's just there, and yet without it I'd be fucked. There're no wells and just one stream in the village, which is, according to Severn-Trent, frequently contaminated with raw sewage.

    The thing about things that are unnoticed is that you don't notice them, innit. It's scarey really.

    By Blogger SimonHolyHoses, at 6:11 am  

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