Short works

Books : reviews

L. Neil Smith.
Forge of the Elders.
Tor. 2000

L. Neil Smith.
First Time the Charm.

L. Neil Smith.
Second to One.

L. Neil Smith.
Third Among Equals.

L. Neil Smith.
Henry Martyn.
Tor. 1989

rating : 6 : unfinishable
review : 24 January 1999

In a future intersteallar empire run by corrupt and decadent Conglomerate, a great injustice forces Arran Islay to become a space pirate.

We start off with a vile torture prologue, then move to young Arran on Skye, recuperating from a serious childhood illness. The book appears to be an exercise in style, and I got only as far as chapter three before giving up. The overly precious style made my eyes slide off the page too many times. The occasional convoluted sentence like

It struck the spotless wall beside rough-cast door timbers --- a flower garland, beginning to brown and dry, hung from a peg there, souvenir of a festivity which, in his illness, he had been unable to attend --- and fell to the polywood floor, frightening the boy's pet triskel which had been lying upon a hand-hooked oval rug.


It had been mounted in a length of grainy, unplacticized wood, carven, where broadest, with the figure of an alien animal, long extinct, which Old Henry said had once been brought to Skye by hundreds for riding, but which had not prospered upon the forage found here.

might be forgivable, but these examples are taken from the same page -- and the whole thing (so far at least) is like this. I like to read transparent prose, that transports me to the world of the book, and doesn't make me notice the text on the page. With this style, I just keep on overflowing my parser stack, and having to backtrack. So this is not for me. But if you like adjectives, and nested clauses, maybe it is for you?

L. Neil Smith.
Bretta Martyn.
Tor. 1997

My other half informs me that Bretta Marytn is better than Henry Martyn, but in the same style. So I'll be giving it a miss.

L. Neil Smith.
Phoenix Pick. 2010

In the 22nd century people have spread into the Solar System. Born and raised in a twentieth of Earth’s gravity on the asteroid Pallas, young skater Llyra Ngu is grimly determined to compete and win on mankind’s homeworld—an ambition that many say will cripple or kill her.

Her older brother Wilson is equally set on quitting his job as a surveyor’s apprentice to become an asteroid hunter, a calling fraught with the promise of fabulous riches and the danger of sudden death. He will find a full share of romance and disappointment, love and loss, and pursue the asteroid hunter’s holy grail, the legendary Diamond Rogue.

Llyra’s training will require years, and a journey that will take her to Ceres, at one tenth Earth’s gravity, where her father bosses the Ceres Terraformation Project, to the one-sixth gravity of the Moon, to Mars and one third gravity, and finally to Earth. Along the way, she will survive jealous rivals, a hostile press, terrorist attacks, and the hijacking of a spaceliner in order to achieve her goal.

In the end, Llyra and Wilson will hear the call of the stars, themselves.