bookish posts reviews

Recent Reading: C.J. Cherryh and Gail Carson Levine

I just couldn’t keep up the J Fic only thing any longer, and ended up plowing through the second Bren Cameron trilogy in three nights, staying up way too late. I’m not intentionally spoiling things here, but I’m also not avoiding spoilers, so tread carefully.

Thoughts on specific books
precursorPrecursor by C.J. Cherryh: After the first trilogy, it’s nice to see Bren with some self-confidence. He still doesn’t know everything, he’s still blindsided by his allies as often as his enemies, but he’s more settled in his own authority, his own skin. Which for me, makes him a more compelling character. We get our first real taste of the ship culture, and how different it is from both Mospheira and the mainland. Cherryh does this difference in cultures thing very well.

defenderDefender by C.J. Cherryh: Ah, this is in my opinion the weakest of the Bren Cameron books that I’ve read. The tension seems ratcheted down; I never really doubted the outcome. I do like seeing Jase stepping up, since in some ways his arc in this trilogy echoes Bren’s in the previous books.

explorerExplorer by C.J. Cherryh: This book contains an interesting broadening of Cherryh’s usual themes–the complex interaction between alien & human societies and government. At the end, I can’t help but wonder if the Pilot’s Guild become understood as the atevi, kyo, and ship humans have, by interaction with particular individuals. Or, because of their isolationism, will they be the true aliens in the middle of this far-reaching alliance?

Thoughts about the trilogy overall
I noticed Bren starting to think in atevi terms first, perhaps mirroring a similar response in readers. That is, I noticed myself registering numbers, on a very low level, but I was definitely noticing the structure of the sentences. You can feel the tension in Tabini’s actions at beginning of Precursor and his choice to speak between the second and third bells. This is some fine writing.

I do sigh a little about the portrayal of ordinary women. I like Jago and Illisidi a great deal, and especially perhaps the different ways in which they wield power. There are also several competent experts, from Gin Kroger to Sabin. These tend to be older, which makes logical sense in terms of their experience and is nice to see in a universe that’s otherwise very young. But–but, Bren’s mother and Barb are both viewed with skepticism, distance; an unkindness that no one else gets. For what? Because they inconvenience him? I don’t have an answer for this, but given what’s happened so far I’m not sure I’ll get an answer that’s satisfying to me. I’m not accusing, or pointing any fingers, but it’s enough of a pattern that I noticed it.

Of course, the point of view in these books is SO limited it might as well be first person, so we are getting them filtered solely through Bren. But we are led throughout–in basically everything else–to trust Bren. We feel his reactions, his emotions. It’s certainly understandable that he has a weak point, but why does it have to involve sneering at women who put their whole selves into raising children?

I wondered at one point if Bren’s full name is Brendan, for St. Brendan the Voyager. It would seem very fitting in these books.

Now for something completely different
princess talesThe Princess Tales by Gail Carson Levine: Levine does fun things with fairy tales, but these shorter stories are no Ella Enchanted. They use the structure of traditional stories and subvert them a bit, but never quite enough–at least for me. I especially found the resolution of the first story, a retelling of “Toads and Diamonds” to be frustrating. Seriously? I’m supposed to accept this as okay? “Princess Sonora and the Long Sleep” was probably my favorite of the three, although my adult brain was muttering darkly about How Child Development Works and The Necessity of Sleep to Proper Functioning.

By Maureen LaFerney

My name is Maureen. I currently work as a library assistant in a public library in the Indianapolis area, and also just so happen to be a voracious reader. I frequently end up under a cat.

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