Top positive review
the book is a very good read and it kept me going
Reviewed in the United States on April 21, 2015
This book demonstrates that a writer learns to write by writing. It is a real page-turner, getting more and more exciting as the plot develops. The first book in the series could be criticized for having, perhaps, a little too much foreshadowing. As soon as Kalquist used the verb "airlock," the meaning was clear and it was something I could have explained as a teenager, over fifty years ago. I actually found myself thinking about the word as soon as I read it. The authority structure on a spaceship necessarily resembles that on an seventeenth or eighteenth century sailing ship, and crimes are just as serious. Keelhauling a miscreant was often a fatal punishment, but airlocking would probably always be lethal. Despite this tiny, possible flaw, the book is a very good read and it kept me going. With the second book, nothing stood out as an error at all. The plot made logical sense and the motivations of various characters, with their very logical and increasingly Machiavellian motivations, unfolded in an entirely appropriate manner. Although the background social structure is reminiscent of K.S. Voltaer's first novels, Kalquist presents it in a more believable manner. Since science fiction mirrors the society of its time, the background similarity between the two writers makes sense, but Kalquist gives it a more logical presentation. This societal revelation is not solely limited to science fiction. Some espionage novels do it as well, including The Fourth Protocol and The Bourne Identity serve the same purpose in exposing problems, but Kalquist's writings, in particular, give the phenomena greater psychological validity than either Frederick Forsyth or Robert Ludlum. Kalquist's books have some motion picture potential and, as in The Fourth Protocol, that might provide some improvement over the written novels. In general, the thought processes of Kalquist's characters are completely plausible, but there is a slight deficiency in character differentiation among female characters, in particular, which would be resolved by the differing facial structures of various actresses playing these roles who would, at the same time, be tasked with making the characters they represent make sense. As written, we know what the characters think and we know what they do, but we do not always know what other characters think about them. These books are so well-written in general, however, that these relatively minor shortcomings to not interfere much at all with the momentum of the plot.
Historically, these novels reveal the evolution of science fiction within our culture. In the 1920's Skylark of Space, Doc Smith's characters used amazingly simple devices such as iron helmets wired together to enable any to characters to share all of their knowledge with each other, and the geometric increase of their ability came from the amazing increase of their knowledge. A decade later, Ron Hubbard added more emotion
to his characters' conduct, but the technological breakthroughs were remarkably fanciful. Van Vogt gave us a limited number of very philosophical themes while maintaining a better psychological basis for his characters. Frank Herbert's Dune brought us large-scale social mirroring with a moral imperative and an embarrassing assignment of right and wrong in our own world. Kalquist brings this social responsibility forward while reflecting serious problems in our contemporary society brought about by our technology. Her characters, collectively, have been driven to make drastic lifestyle changes out of sheer necessity. I would give Herbert a slight edge over Kalquist for the sheer knowledge and spiritual/technological creativity he brought to Dune. However, Kalquist's novels are very, very contemporary, and they display a female perspective which has been noticeably missing in the past. I will eagerly read another of her novels before I consider reading another Dune book. And, yes, I am very much aware of who I am comparing her to. She is, generally, on the edge of being in the same league with the greatest speculative writers, although she brings to play a slighty different set of skills than any of them present.
Let me make one additional, further-fetched comparison. Would the Dalai Lama have written this novel? Well, no. The excitement of this novel depends upon situations and expectations which HH would not even be thinking about. Each character's basic survival is threatened. All really exciting novels and movies have that quality. You must have good guys and bad guys, and there should really be a single bad guy or your readers will lose interest. The Dalai Lama would simply relinquish his body, as calmly as possible, expecting to move on to whatever he would experience next, praying that his enemies might be free from suffering. Kalquist's writings are very American. To the extent that this is a flaw, it is not her flaw. Our country has a Machiavellian bent which we do not acknowledge except in fiction or in the most ardent pursuit of recent political history. The bad guys within our society have very transparent values, just as they do in out most popular fiction. "Grogan, who ... and raped and murdered my sister, shot the dog and stole my Bible. (Romancing the Stone)" Greed is transformed into a quest for power over others. Either side of this conflict is somewhat corrupt: the lowest among us seek to dominate or avoid domination, to win and cause others to lose or to kill and survive. That gets our adrenaline flowing. In society, it is usually our self-concept which is threatened, but fiction generally turns this into a life-and-death situation. So, yes, this is a very exciting book and very well written within conventional restraints. It follows all of the time-tested rules for an exciting novel.
So, I can't wait for your movies to come out, Autumn, and I am really looking forward to the third novel in the series.