01/10/2008. Contributed by Geoff Willmetts
pub: TOR/Forge. 446 page hardback. Price: $25.95 (US), $28.95 (CAN). ISBN: 978-0-7653-1598-4).
check out website: www.tor-forge.com and www.brenda-cooper.com
Writing in first person is one of the toughest ways to write a story, more so when it's in a novel because it limits the viewpoint of interaction with events unless your lead character is in the thick of things.
After the events of Brenda Cooper's previous novel in this series, 'The Silver Ship And The Sea', half of the lead cast have taken the spaceship back to Silver's Home leavine Chelo, Liam and Kayleen on Fremont. These three have become somewhat isolated from the human population when they crash-land a skimmer on an island and unable to get home. My initial reaction reading the opening section of this came over as being totally lack-lustre with Cooper throwing away a lot of the character development and interaction with the humans that she had in the first book.
When she switched to the spaceship and also first person through Joseph of the events that were going to over-take him when they arrived, things started to get a little more life. However, on planet, Cooper separates Joseph from the others so his skills as a wind reader, that is someone who can scan computer feeds with his brain, can be developed and the perspective is again narrowed with so much becoming surface and story by numbers. None of this is helped with the discovery that Joseph's father is not only alive but thinking his people on Fremont are all dead has been working hard to pay for an assassination team to go there and kill anyone they find. It then becomes a rush to return to Fremont to sort things out.
Switching back and forth between the two sets of characters showing the assassination team arriving and assessing Chelo and her two companions aren't normal human and hiding their true purpose doesn't last for long. I should point out that in the three years they've been trapped on the island, Chelo and Kayleen are now also heavily pregnant. The three of them steal one of the assassination team's skimmers and return to Artistos to warn and aid them. Joseph and his group, including his father, come in towards the end of this, returning in a much faster smaller spaceship.
What is sorely missing from this book is any sort of emotional connection to the characters. With their more super-human abilities, one could easily think Chelo and Joseph are just better controlled individuals. However, when Chelo is giving birth, apart from the descriptive tone which summed up what it felt like, there was further confirmation of the lack of emotion going on, compounded further when Chelo's baby is kidnapped. For all the difference it made in Chelo's unemotional state she might as well have been writing a shopping list.
I hate putting a book down as being lacklustre, especially after such a promising first book in this series, but this one really is emotionally dead. Not just from Chelo or Joseph but even for the human characters on Artistos. Keeping them out of the picture for so long, when their numbers are reduced there is nothing to feel in their loss and indeed, they don't feel so neither. To get back on form, Cooper needs to remind herself what made the first book good.
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Stephen Hunt's novels - USA