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13 July 2010 @ 02:02 pm
"Black Ships" by Jo Graham; "Wake" by Robert J. Sawyer  
"Black Ships" (book 19) is a re-telling of the The Aeneid - Virgil's story of Prince Aeneas & his people journeying from Troy after it fell at the end of the Trojan War, to Italy where they found Rome. It's set in the late Bronze Age and so fits in rather nicely with the stuff we've been watching on TV recently - in particular Thera erupted a few generations back & stories are told about it during the book. The point of view character is Gull - a girl born to a Trojan woman in slavery to the Greeks, who is dedicated to the service of the Lady of the Dead & is the Pythia (the oracle) for her people. When Troy falls, those men who are still alive come and rescue the slaves from Greece (mostly women & children). The People then journey about the Mediterranean as refugees, spending some time at Byblos and then in Egypt before sailing on to Italy. I really enjoyed this book - I liked the character of Gull and the other people she meets & travels/lives with. I liked the way it had a real feeling of being set in the historical period, stuff I recognised from the books I've read & the TV programmes I've watched. And a culture that believes in these gods & goddesses - Gull as the Pythia talks to the Lady and to other gods - and there's no overtones of "such silly people" to the story. I also liked that as oracle sometimes the Lady speaks through the Pythia, but sometimes the Pythia uses her own wits to answer - this isn't being a fake, this is part of what being Pythia means, the gods don't always intervene in everything. There's one or two more books in this series - I've got the next one "Hands of Isis" reserved at the library already :) - but this is a satisfying standalone story. I think the stories are possibly tied together by the sort of numinous world they take place in (with the gods being real, I mean) and by reincarnation, but obviously I don't know yet as I've not read them!

"Wake" by Robert J. Sawyer (book 20) was a complete change of pace - from numinous fantasy/historical novel with a sense of myth to it, to straight forward science fiction in a very near future, practically today. The (main) protagonist of this novel is a 15 year old girl who's been blind from birth, and what happens when she's fitted with an implant that might let her see. Caitlin feels real (to someone who isn't a 15yo girl any more) - and she uses LJ, and email & IM in ways that feel real. I was a bit less convinced by the tech, in that apparently it lets her see the web because the part of her brain that would do sight has been re-purposed for web navigation because it's been such an important part of her interaction with the world. But I kinda didn't follow how this implant would make her visualise the web suddenly as opposed to whatever she was doing already, SPOILER and I wasn't sure how they managed to make her see reality in a simple change of software if the initial "problem" was her brain having re-wired itself? END SPOILER I just decided that fell in the category of "plot device" though & went along for the ride, the story is really about consciousness, and needing something outside yourself before you see yourself as a self, not the tech per se. This is referenced throughout - Caitlin is fairly obsessed with Helen Keller's life (being blind from birth it has resonance & interest for her, after all), but also there's a plot thread about a chimp who's been taught to talk with sign language and another (major - presumably the eventual point of the story?) thread about the web itself gaining consciousness. The book is very clearly the first part in a story - there's closure on some stuff by the end, but other plot threads are clearly set up for later stuff as well as parallels to the story of the book. A fun read, I will probably read the next two when they come out & if the library gets them, but equally it didn't make me go "want more nownownownow".
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