November 2008

Another of my reviews: Robert K. Tanenbaum’s Escape

A modern thriller.


Booking Through Thursday

I’ve asked, in the past, about whether you more often buy your books, or get them from libraries. What I want to know today, is, WHY BUY?

Even if you are a die-hard fan of the public library system, I’m betting you have at least ONE permanent resident of your bookshelves in your house. I’m betting that no real book-lover can go through life without owning at least one book. So … why that one? What made you buy the books that you actually own, even though your usual preference is to borrow and return them?

If you usually buy your books, tell me why. Why buy instead of borrow? Why shell out your hard-earned dollars for something you could get for free?

I’m a buyer for several reasons. I like to support the writers whom I’d like to write more. Also, I mostly read in English and I live in Finland which means that English language books aren’t usually available here for free. Sure, if new (or older, too) sci-fi and fantasy books in English were available here in libraries I’d borrow them more. During the last year, I’ve started to use more Fictionwise and Audible where the downloadable e- and audio books tend to be available cheaper than in print form.

I’m also quite a slow reader and I tend to change my mind relatively quickly about what I’m going to read next so borrowing times aren’t that convenient for me.

Booking Through Thursday

What, if any, memorable or special book have you ever gotten as a present? Birthday or otherwise. What made it so notable? The person who gave it? The book itself? The “gift aura?”

I don’t get many books as presents. But I do get trade paperback comics which I enjoy. The most memorable book gift was from my brother who bought me an audio book of Bujold’s Cetaganda. Bujold is one of my favorite writers and audio books tend to be very expensive here. Thanks!

This is a romantic science fiction book and I recommend it to anyone who likes both genres. Unfortunately, I was a wrong reader for it. I tend to not really like reading about courtship phase of romances and I was under the impression that this would be the first book in a series. I was hoping that there would be at least one more book with the main characters as an established couple. But it’s a stand-alone.

In the classic style of romances, the book has two point-of-view characters; the male and the female of the paring. Trilby Elliott is a captain of an old space freighter, the Careless Venture, which is always threatening to fall apart. She keeps it together with the help of her ‘droid co-pilot, Dezi who resembles quite a lot C-3PO because he talks a lot and the humans keep constantly interrupting him. Trilby is an excellent mechanic, pilot, and programmer. Of course she has to be, because she’s an independent cargo hauler and so has to keep her small ship in shape. She also does some smuggling on the side.

This time she has stopped on a remote planet to make repairs and sees a ‘Sko fighter coming down. She investigates and finds an unconscious male. However, the male seems to be an officer of the Empire while she’s a citizen of the Conclave. Their governments were in war just three years ago but now both are being harassed by the alien ‘Sko’s fighters.

Trilby takes the man into her ship so that he can be healed by the sickbay’s systems and she might get a reward out of him. However, the man wakes, thinks that he’s still in a hostile ship, and tries to take over the ship. He does calm down when Trilby explains the situation and introduced himself as a Lieutenant Rhis Vanur who has just come from a very dangerous and secret mission and needs to get back to his fleet as soon as possible.

Trilby agrees to take him to a space station where she’s also going to get a lucrative shipment deal and he can get someone else to take him home. However, on the way they are attacked and Rhis manages to convince Trilby that they have to get to the fleet. Their journey is made more exciting by the fact that they feel immediate mutual attraction to each other.

However, Rhis is not who he says he is and he’s far more desperate to get back to his fleet than Trilby realizes. In fact, he’s also a very good programmer and he has managed to put programs into the Careless Venture which would make the ship obey his commands and not Trilby’s. This, of course, wouldn’t endear him to the freighter captain. But Rhis is equally desperate to keep the connection that he feels is growing between them.

The story’s about half romance and half space adventure and intrigue. The setting is quite well made and I’d be interested to see more books in the same setting. There are at least two human nations which war with each other. The alien ‘Sko’s have also warring factions. The aliens themselves aren’t seen much and seem rather alien when we do see them.

Sinclair writes well and she manages to avoid some of the more obnoxious romance troupes. Unfortunately for me, she still uses some of them. Unlike romance readers, I don’t find jealousy, possessiveness, and borderline stalkerish behavior to be romantic.

Captain Trilby is a very spirited and endearing heroine. She’s fiercely independent but makes mistakes because of her emotions just like the rest of us. She’s also in her early thirties and no wide-eyed innocent about the ways of the world. Rhis definitely fits into the mold of Alpha male but he’s a bit too possessive and jealous to appeal to me.

This is the second book in the Retrieval Artist –novels. It also seems to be out of print. I was only able to get a used copy.

Two of the previous book’s main characters are back as main characters. The former police officer Miles Flint is now a Retrieval Artist; an expert tracer who seeks out people who have wanted to disappear for one reason or another. Usually, they are criminals although not necessarily so by human law. Retrieval Artists seek them out when something important to them has happened: the charges dropped, a loved one died, new evidence found…

Flint is in the weird position that he must discourage clients. Because he doesn’t want anyone to hire him for a lark, he has very high fees, sets his own timetables, and is generally hard to find and hard to get along with. This time, though, he gets a very persistent client. First, an intriguing woman enters his office: she isn’t very persistent but is there to hire Flint on behalf of her bosses (she works in a law firm) and when she fails, she leaves quickly. But when Flint tries to get more information about her, he finds out that she isn’t a very public figure at all and usually lawyers want people to know them. However, very quickly her boss himself contacts Flint and is very persistent. Eventually, Flint finds out that Ignatius Wagner, a junior partner in the law firm, wants to hire Flint to trace the work of the firm’s own Retrieval Artist. That man had been tracing a Disappeared who is getting a very large inheritance but she is also believed to be very dangerous. Frieda Tay is a scientist who believes that great adversity, such as extremely contagious disease in a small, confined population, will bring out the best in humans and therefore give humans an edge in their race against the alien species. She infected a small colony and after they all died, she Disappeared. The law firm’s Retrieval Artist was close to finding her but now he is dead. Of a disease.

Meanwhile Detective Noelle DeRicci has been once again assigned a very unglamorous job: the Moon is hosting a marathon run and someone has died. Everyone, and especially the organizers of the race, are convinced that the death must be an accident. However, DeRicci soon finds out that it was in fact a murder. The body of the woman was dumped on the marathon’s route after she had died. DeRicci and her new and unimaginative partner van der Ketting will have to keep everyone on the scene and question them in order to find the murderer. Unfortunately, neither the staff nor the runners are happy with this and neither is DeRicci’s superior who didn’t want or expect her to disrupt a very popular sports event.

The third main character is Miriam Oliviari. She is a Tracker; a person who is hired to find the Disappeared at any cost. Usually their clients are the ones who caused them to disappear in the first place which is why the Retrieval Artists loathe them even though the Trackers are completely legal unlike the RAs. Oliviari has been tracing one Disappeared for years and she believes that now she’s close. The target is Frieda Tay who has been running in the Moon Marathon for years now. Oliviari has managed to get a position in the medical staff and expects to be able to identify Tay among the runners. Unfortunately, Tay doesn’t show up and instead some of the runners start to get sick.

I still like the setting very much. The Moon with the domes feels this time more claustrophobic. The science fiction elements are very noticeable but not distracting. The links that the characters have attached to them seem very similar to our cell phones. The marathon is run on the Moon’s native surface and the runners are in environmental suits which I found to be, well, something the people might actually do if we do populate the Moon.

I found both DeRicci and Oliviari to be more interesting characters than Flint. DeRicci has clear problems with authority and she wants to be in control of her own life instead of being lead around by moronic superiors. Unfortunately, the only way she can do this is by controlling who can contact her and when. That habit creates even more problems for her, though. Oliviari shows glimpses of being a complex character who doesn’t really like her job but has to still do it. Both women are shown more than Flint. Weirdly, Flint is the only character mentioned in the back cover.

The aliens are only mentioned this time and not shown at all.

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