March 26th, 2010


Books: Remnant Population and The Steerswoman's Road

I seem to spend a lot of time on this journal complaining about bad books, so for a change, why don't I talk about books I've read lately that are SHEER DISTILLED AWESOME? Because I've read two recently that make me flail in helpless glee.

Remnant Population by Elizabeth Moon - This was recommended to me by someone on one of my previous book posts (sorry I can't remember who, because THANK YOU!). On a colony world, the mega-corporation that founded the colony decides it isn't paying for itself, so they recall all the colonists. But one old woman, who has lived her adult life on the planet and doesn't wish to leave, stays behind; now she's the only person in all the world -- or is she? This is a wonderful survival story about a wonderful character; I adored it. I'm such a picky reader that it's extremely rare for me to have no quibbles at all with a book, but this is just such a book -- there was nothing I didn't like about it! (The only problem was that I started reading it while traveling to visit with family, which meant that I kept having to sneak off to read more of the book when I was supposed to be visiting.)

The Steerswoman's Road by Rosemary Kirstein - I just got done reading this one, and oh wow, I don't know where to begin. For starters, it's a buddy-road-trip book about two female best friends, of different cultures, dealing with culture clash as they travel through first one woman's country, then the other. But the thing that really made me fall head over heels for the book was its central premise, which isn't spelled out immediately, but I think becomes fairly obvious in the first few chapters -- I'll use spoiler text to hide it, just in case you want to go in completely unspoiled, which might not be a bad idea: It appears to be a pretty typical fantasy land at first glance, with inns and wizards and such, but it soon becomes apparent that the "magic" is actually technology -- electricity and such. Figuring out what you're ACTUALLY looking at, when the characters start talking about spells, and then working out the actual history of this world based on the characters' garbled versions of it, is half the fun! There's actually WAY more to it than that, and really, this book is all about knowledge, and figuring things out, so the reader gets to do a whole lot of mystery-solving along with the characters.

I really enjoyed the first half of "The Steerswoman's Road" -- well actually, it's two books combined in an omnibus edition, so technically the first book -- but the second half (originally published as "The Outskirter's Secret") completely sucked me in and started mashing down a whole bunch of my narrative-kink buttons. I just finished reading it, so right now I'm coming down off the total high that you get when you read a really good book that draws you utterly into its reality (I'm not the only one who experiences that, right)? And I just discovered that the library has the next two books in the series, so I shall be off to obtain them soon, because I have to know what's going on with X and what Y really means and ... *FLAIL*.

Really, I can't recommend either of these books highly enough. If you're more in a mood for quiet, introspective sci-fi with a focus on ordinary people doing extraordinary things, then "Remnant Population" is more that sort of book; if you want action and mystery with heroes and villains and awesome female buddies/best friends, then "The Steerswoman's Road" is more that sort of book.