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Books : reviews

Melinda M. Snodgrass.
Circuit.
Berkley. 1986

rating : 3.5 : worth reading
review : 19 July 2009

Judge Cab Huntington is appointed to the newly formed Fifteenth Circuit, to bring law and order to the colony worlds on the moon, Mars, and beyond. When he arrives, he finds himself unwanted and distrusted by the colonists, who rightfully see this as an attempt by Earth to assert its superiority over them. When his first judgement has disastrous consequences, he has to ask himself where his loyalties really lie: with Earth, with the Colonists, or with Justice.

This was written long enough ago that it now takes place in an alternate universe, where the USSR didn't fall, and the Cold War is still very chilly. It's nevertheless pretty realistic, though: politicians are still corrupt and venal, desperately clinging to power. It's a fairly straightforward tale of brave colonists rebelling against tyrannical rulers, with the central character finding out whether he has the courage to do the right thing. The difference is the main character is a lawyer, and the legal processes are central to the plot.

Melinda M. Snodgrass.
Circuit Breaker.
Berkley. 1987

rating : 4 : passes the time
review : 27 July 2009

Judge Cab Huntington's impeachment trial has been overturned by the new President, and he's sent off to Mars to continue his circuit, along with Jenny McBride, his ex law partner, now his clerk, and also his lover.. But there are more devious plans afoot to bring the troublesome colonists to heel, and once again Cab finds himself in the middle of revolt.

This has less legal manoeuvring (essentially only a couple of trial scenes, over very quickly), and rather more politicking along with a bit of authorial lecturing against the evils of Big Government, and the lunatic fringe of environmentalism. There are some interesting parts, like the structure of the Mormon colony on Mars. But the paternalistic sexism is more grating this time (it is claimed that it's more an Earth problem than a colonist problem, yet the main colonist women we see are the wife of a Mormon who even Cab thinks is a bit downtrodden, and a woman who uses seduction to get her way), making it feel in places as if it was written in the 1950s rather than the1980s. By the end, I definitely wanted to smack Jenny around the head to help her get a clue.

However, I'll probably still read the third one, to see the inevitable revolution.

Melinda M. Snodgrass.
Final Circuit.
Ace. 1988

Melinda M. Snodgrass.
The High Ground.
Titan. 2016

The Emperor’s daughter Mercedes is the first woman ever admitted to The High Ground, the elite training academy of the Solar League’s Star Command, and she must graduate if she is to have any hope of taking the throne. Her classmate Thracius has more modest goals—to defy his humble beginnings and rise to the rank of captain. But in a system rocked by political division, where women are governed by their husbands and fathers, the poor are kept in their place by a rigid class system, and the alien races have been conquered and subjugated, there are many who want them to fail.

A civil war is coming and the machinations of those who hunger for power threaten the cadets. In a time of political intrigue, class conflict, and alien invasion, they will be tested as they never thought possible…

Melinda M. Snodgrass.
In Evil Times.
Titan. 2017

Scholarship student Thracius “Tracy” Belmanor and Princess Mercedes de Arango have graduated from the High Ground and become officers in the Orden de la Estrella. Stung by Mercedes’ choice of Beauregard “Boho” Cullen as her consort, Tracy is glad that they are posted on battleships light years apart, but soon finds that without her protection he is nothing but a target. Meanwhile, Mercedes’ posting has its own challenges, not least her unfaithful husband.

Both young officers find themselves part of forced “assimilations” of settlers on Hidden Worlds, which lead them to doubt the intentions of the Solar League. And when Tracy witnesses an horrific event that threatens the fragile human and alien peace, Mercedes must decide where her loyalties truly lie…

Melinda M. Snodgrass.
The Edge of Reason.
Tor. 2008

rating : 3.5 : worth reading
review : 12 July 2009

Richard Oort is an ordinary beat cop in Albuquerque until the night he rescues a young woman from muggers – muggers made of mud and sticks. All at once he finds himself embroiled in an ancient battle between good and evil. Kenntnis leads the side of light and reason, against the Old Ones who want the world to return to the darkness of fear and superstition so that they can feed. Kenntnis, sometimes known as Prometheus, sometimes as Lucifer, has to persuade Richard to join his side, against all the gods (all of them – yes, even that one).

It is interesting to watch Richard shake off the traumas of his past, and grow into the role of Paladin of the light, and how some of the others around him react to the various revelations. It’s nice to see rational people who are willing to believe the evidence of their eyes, even when that evidence contradicts everything they previously believed, but I’m surprised at how little trauma some of them felt at the shattering of their previous world view. Despite the underlying premise, there is little overt ranting against religion: it’s more in sorrow than in anger (except for the humans knowingly exploiting the system).

The book has an ending, but it’s clearly the beginning of a series.

Melinda M. Snodgrass.
The Edge of Ruin.
Tor. 2009

The secret war between magic and rationality continues, and Paladin and police officer Richard Oort is out of his depth. The CEO of Lumina Enterprises remains bound by the Old Ones, powerless to aid the cause of reason, and Richard finds himself the head of a global corporate empire, battling the beings that feed on human suffering.

An inter-dimensional gate has been opened between the worlds, and the Old Ones are seeping through. With the aid of sorceress Rhiana, homeless god Cross, and one-time enemy Reverend Grenier, Richard tries to convince the US government to intervene before the rising tide of religious violence reduces humanity to madness. But the Old Ones will use any human weakness, and the horrors are only just beginning.

Melinda M. Snodgrass.
The Edge of Dawn.
Tor. 2015

The final battle approaches, the light of science and reason against an ancient supernatural army poised to destroy the world. Overwhelmed after a series of catastrophic events, Richard Oort is still determined to fight the horrific Old Ones. While undercover in a Christian fundamentalist compound, he finds an unlikely ally, another human who can use the paladin’s weapon, one who might be able to join him and lighten the burden of responsibility. There’s only one problem – Mosi is a nine-year-old girl.

To keep her safe Richard becomes her guardian, but an error in judgement leads to disaster and betrayal, and now the pair will need to summon all their strength to survive the coming battle. From the American southwest to a secret society in Turkey, the paladin and his ward try to stay in front of their enemies, but the world is at stake – and time is running short.

Melinda M. Snodgrass.
The Tears of the Singers.
Pocket. 1984

(read but not reviewed)