Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Snow Queen by Joan D. Vinge

A book that follows the main plot of the Snow Queen fairy tale. This version happens on a planet where both summer and winter lasts over hundred years. The planet is a part of the galactic trade routes only during the winter; during the summer the black hole which is used for FTL and is situated nearby the planet is in a position which makes it impossible to use and there is no contact with the rest of the galaxy at all.
The planet is always ruled by a queen. Now the rule of the winter queen is nearing its end. To extend her power, she has planted several clones among the summer people. Only one of them has survived, a girl named Moon. She and her cousin, her lover, were separated while she became a Sibyl, a mythical seer who is revered by the summer people, but is despised and feared by the more technologically inclined winter people. By accident Moon ends up in the outside world, while the winter queen takes interest on Moon’s cousin Sparks. Sparks ends up as a lover of the winter queen, and he seems to have forgotten his earlier life as a nature loving summer. It takes years before Moon is able to return. She still loves Sparks and hopes to win him back. In spite of appearances, this book is pure science fiction. Everything which might seem mystical has a science fictional explanation.
A very well written book with nice characterization and rich language. The only character that really didn’t come alive was Sparks, who felt very cardboardish when compared with the well-described female characters of the book. It seemed that he was mainly used as a more or less simpleminded boy-toy by the two main characters. I wonder if that was intentional “comment” which was purposefully made by the author, considering how females are often used in science fiction. Anyway, a book which well deserves the Hugo award it won 1981.

560 pp.

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