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Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Welcome Author Jennifer Dunne

Jennifer Dunne, author of (no surprise) fantasy and science fiction novels that deal with the demands of duty, disfunctional family, and bonds of society such as Fugitive Lovers, Not Quite Camelot, Shadow Prince and The Tower, as well as a slew of romances complicated by the same things.

There are books you want to read, books you're dying to read, and books you return to reread time and again. Sometimes those books change (as a teenager I reread Mercedes Lackey's Last Herald Mage series religiously every year, but it gradually lost its appeal as I became an adult) and sometimes they stay with you for life (I first read Watership Down when I was eight, skipping all the parts that weren't about the bunnies, but have continued to reread it every few years in the decades since, gradually uncovering more depths to the story with every reread). But the two books that are my go-to books for rereading whenever I want to escape into a wonderful fictional world where good always triumphs and love always wins through, despite the truly tremendous obstacles in the way, are a pair of romantic science fiction novels.

The first is Shards of Honor by Lois McMaster Bujold. Originally published in the mid-80s and still available as a standalone title or audiobook, it's also available in omnibus form with the sequel, Barrayar, under the title Cordelia's Honor. The heroine of the story is Cordelia Naismith, a Captain in the Betan Expeditionary Forces -- which means she has the intelligence and patience to shepherd a gaggle of squabbling scientists in a generally forward direction while exploring new planets. It is most definitely not a military rank, something that becomes of major importance when the planet they're exploring turns out to have been secretly discovered by the Barrayaran military expansionists. Cordelia is taken prisoner by the lone Barrayaran, Aral Vorkosigan, and the two of them must work together to survive the predatory planet on which they find themselves. They pass the time talking, trying to understand each other's dramatically different world views, and finding much to respect about each other, but their loyalties to their respective governments prevent any further exploration..until they meet again, in far different circumstances. And that's where things really get complicated for our star-crossed lovers, because they're both trying to do the right thing, and behave with honor, in circumstances that crush that honor to smithereens. There are no easy answers, no pat solutions to complex issues, and no unrealistic "happily ever after", but you know this couple will cherish every moment of happiness they do have, and literally move worlds to be with each other.

The second is Scout's Progress by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller. I first read this story in the omnibus Pilot's Choice, but it was recently republished as a standalone paperback. The sequel, Mouse and Dragon, is a new hardcover release. Set in the authors' Liaden Universe, ruled by the complex and implacable Liaden Code of Conduct, the main characters of Daav and Allianna are both constrained by the strictures of society to suffer repulsive fates. In Daav's case, he must marry a pilot and produce an heir for his clan. Allianna is being slowly ground under the heel of her insecure brother, who fears her challenge to his authority. When Allianna puts her doctoral thesis on probability to good use in a gambling hall and wins a spaceship, she sees a way out of her difficulties, if only she can learn to fly it. Teaching her helps Daav escape from his burdens for a time, until the complication of loving her makes his forthcoming wedding nearly unbearable. Meanwhile, her skills as a pilot have restored Allianna's confidence, and her brother determines that a last, desperate attempt to break her must be made. All of the books in the Liaden Universe deal with clan and Code, but this is the only one to focus specifically on what happens to the poor people caught in the middle when those whose responsibility it is to care for clan fail to do so. The courage and strength of the characters, who survive when all the forces surrounding them are trying to bend them until they break, sends me to tears every time I read it.

And now, if you'll excuse me, I think I need to reread these wonderful books yet again....

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I nearly swooned when I saw your first recommendation. I *love* Bujold, largely because she was probably the first science fiction author I ever read who created a strong female character who was really a woman.

Before, almost everything I read had two types of female characters: the bubbleheaded bimbos of OST and LoS fame, and men with tits - that is, women who were men in all but physiology.

I discovered Bujold before she won her first Hugo, by buying an old copy of Analog (I think) that had The Vor Game in it. I did everything to get my hands on all her works and was so glad when they re-released them.

I admired the hell out of Cordelia. She has a moment in the novel Barrayar that *still* makes me grin and want to pump my fist every time I read it. And you can probably guess just when that is. ;)

FYI, I just finished Cryoburn. I cried. Enough said.

I'll definitely try the second book out, though. Thanks for the rec!