“Great,” Reese said, losing what little energy she had. She imagined it bleeding into the ground beneath her tailbone and shoulders. “You were supposed to be in a jail cell we could get you out of for money, not underground in a place pirates hide people they want to make disappear.”
The Eldritch canted his head, hair hissing against one shoulder. “I’m sorry for the inconvenience.”
“Yeah, well, I’ll send you a bill,” Reese said, trying to get a hand under herself so she could sit up.
It was the cover that lured me in. Sometimes I am lucky and the cover actually presages the contents.
Dominic Green‘s Ant & Cleo series is as well-written and ridiculous as only British humor can be. These two young (12 years old) people go through experiences that are disconnected to reality as we prefer to believe it. Unless, of course, Britain, Russia (USSR) and the US have actually managed to get colonies into space. I suppose it is possible?
First, Antony and Cleopatra, the main characters. Their characters have little to do with the portrayal by Shakespeare but more in common with the originals. Ant seems to be bluff, passionate and a little simple-minded (and highly underestimated by Cleo), while Cleo is fairly intelligent and practical.
It all begins with a trip to the woods with Ant’s father. Forests are great places for adventure, though I doubt many people get to go into space with an alien from Lalande 21185. Strangely enough, this alien looks like a human:
“The new man looked tired and thin, and had a haircut that suggested he spent a lot of his time in prison. He was wearing neither a suit nor combat fatigues, but a pair of Levi’s which still had the label dangling from the back of them, and a maroon T shirt. The T shirt had aliens in flying saucers on it, along with the words SPACE RASTA.”
Mr. Green throws Ant & Cleo into situations that keep them wondering about the things they have learned in school. The spaceship they leave Earth in is their first clue to their ignorance. “Made in Britain by Hawker Siddeley Aviation” seems a bit far-fetched to them. But that is what the maker’s plate says.
Then they meet Americans (US) in space. What a parody of every prejudice non-US citizens have had of them. White-supremacy, a confederate flag and deep southern accents along with names like Billy-Bob, Billy-Hank and Wayne-Bob. A whole sleuth of movies go through my memories as I write this. The funniest thing about these stereotypes is that Hollywood is the worst perpetrator of the image (and early James Bond). Their new compatriots join them on that planet. Glenn Bob and Truman make an odd couple. One very curious and the other diligent in carrying out assigned jobs.
After the US, Ant & Cleo get to meet members of the Soviet Union. Yes. In space the USSR still rules and feelings between the US and Russians continue to be very cold (I guess a bit like today). Here, too, accents and behavior copies movie and television stereotypes. Mr. Green nails these stereotypes.
“Glorious Soviet Yutopia does not kyill wyomen and chyildren”
OMG, non-russians speaking English with Russian accents drive me crazy. Finally, Ant & Cleo get to meet and talk with the British. Their poor kidnapper has been unconscious ever since their spaceship broke Earth’s orbit, so they do not know who he is and where he is from. He is British. Here again, Green nails every stereotype. These are the British who shake their head and carry on with the job even when they are severely wounded, wring sweat out of their long underwear to make water and express strong feelings by saying things like “Golly”, “Gosh” and “Bally good”.
Nothing is realistic. Well, except that quite a lot of it is. Tension between countries, secretive and lying governments and people who try to follow the propaganda they have been brought up are all things Green portrays as is. Propaganda, my goodness, what a great examples of propaganda and the brainwashing citizens are put through and accept.
I enjoyed this book immensely and think it would be appropriate for people from around 10 years old and up. Adults might have to explain some of the references, but with the I-net available to many, they might not.
Alan Scott has written a wonderfully funny and dark story about murder and mayhem.
I suppose it could be read as a warning about the consequences of training our soldiers too well. The thought did not enter my mind until the classroom situation. But, yeah, that could work.
A man with his own brand of conscience and his pet hamster, TF. A killer with a pet hamster. Not much like the hamster I used to own and adore. SCoT-01 is a fun and terrifying person I would hope to always keep on my side. His hamster, too.
Identifying a ruling class and state posed no such problem. The upper and usually senior ranks of the various corporate bodies, patricians and patriarchs or the merchant houses, administrators of cooperatives, guildmasters and latifundists, heads of religious orders and philosophical schools, retired courtesans, professors emeritus, and so on and so forth, formed what was blatantly called the Electorate, who just as blatantly elected the Senate and staffed its administration, and that was that. Volkov had no scruples about elites – having been part of one – and was surprised to find himself shocked by the sheer effrontery of the Republic’s lack of the forms of democracy. All his experience had been with people who insisted on at least the illusion of popular rule, and it was disquieting to encounter a people who seemed satisfied with the substance of self-government in everyday life while letting his politics and statecraft go on over their heads – as it almost always and everywhere did, of course. (Ken MacLeod)
I Dreamt of Trees is an amazing first novel. Mr. Decruyenaere has managed that difficult feat of listening to his editors and written tightness and tension into his story. Words flow from one to another drawing me into a dreary and terrible future inhabited by people who are all too believable.
The USS McAdam seems to have been built with every contingency in mind except the humans inhabiting it and the Squelchers. But for the most part it is the humans who are its main problem and also the main theme of the story. We enter the USS McAdam centuries after its launching from a place only guessed at by the general population.
“to think that anyone on the ship actually knew its true origins was just ridiculous; too many centuries had passed since the ship had launched; too many computer malfunctions, human errors, and political shenanigans had transpired for any real proof of Earth to remain.”
The society on the MSS McAdam seems to have been half-way decent during the Prologue. Thirty-five years after the appearance of the Squelchers, life has changed for the entire population of the vessel.
A crisis is a wonderful thing for power-hungry people. What was once unthinkable becomes doable by manipulating a fearful population into wanting to destroy the new “THEM” by any means possible. Even if that entails becoming a strictly stratified and segregated population (“one must make sacrifices”). The “have-nots” are stuck on the Rim-side of a ship-wide sewage moat while the “haves” get to live on the Core-side. Understandably, Core-dwellers will do what is required to remain on their side of the moat.
Core-dwellers are the people the High Command (and true rulers after the revolution) deemed desirable. The High Command tell their puppets, the Council, what attitudes need to be enforced through propaganda and terror. Like many of our own revolutions here on earth, life seldom becomes better for any but the very few. But while life may be terror-laden for Core-dwellers, it is infinitely better than what Rim-dweller endure.
What new regimes need are heroes and “Them”. In this case the major “Them” is obvious. Squelchers are bizarre aliens who zap people into their spaceships when their beams get through the shields of the MSS McAdam. Our new heroes are the Flashers and the Boosterettes.
Flasher Jason Crawford is our main character and seventeen years old. His level of aggression is at a height that is either drug-induced or bred into him. For some reason anger and aggression are seen as a positive qualities for the Flashers (along with youth and short and slender bodies). Everything about Jason screams aggression. His language reveals both his lack of ability to control his temper but also the extremely homophobic and misogynistic nature of his society.
A young girl’s greatest goal is to be able to work in privilege suites as a Boosterette. I strongly doubt dream and reality line up for these young girls. Medical staff are assigned to take care of what is left once the Flashers have “released the pressure”. Thankfully, Mr. Decruyenaere never shows us what goes on in the privilege suites.
Life is going to be full of surprises for young Jason and most of those surprises will shock him. I loved the ending. It was perfect.
Cover art by David Palumbo Cover design by Rebecca Silvers Interior layout and design by Ross E. Lockhart
God’s War, huh. On Religious Tolerance you will find recent religious conflicts around the world. I counted 25. While most of those wars are across religious lines, some of them (Iraq, Pakistan and Somalia) are, like the 3000 year long World War on Umayma, about interpretations of a faith. As far as we can tell, the people on Umayma had the same origins and values upon leaving Earth. If a time ever comes when humans are able to terraform and populate another planet, war will probably ensue as soon as people manage to settle down. Humans do seem to like their wars.
Terraforming (or engineering) a planet would be a long and complicated process. The time span required and the amount of genetic tinkering needed for humans to be able to live on a far flung planet has to be staggering. While every person needs some degree of engineering in some fashion to survive, there are inhabitants of Umayma who have changed more than others.
Bugs and their magicians are two. Something in their genetic make-up makes certain people able to communicate with bugs. Talking to bugs could be useful here on Earth. On Umayma, bug-talking is vital to existence as bugs are used in most arenas of life. From food, to fuel, to engines, to clothing, to lighting, and so the list goes on. Magicians are not equal. One of our main characters, Rhys, is less equal in the area of bug-control than others.
Shape-shifters is the other strange product of tinkering (possibly). There is a legend that they are a product of the union of Angels and humans. Hurley doesn’t tell us that shape-shifters have been made by genetic engineers, so my understanding is just a guess.
“The war still raged along the ever-changing border with Chenja. Nyx started up her storefront with the dancer and tech in Punjai, a border city at the heart of the bounty-hunting business. While she was in prison, Punjai had been swallowed by the Chenja for six months, the “liberated” by a couple of brillian Nesheenian magicians and an elite terrorist-removal unit. All of the city’s prayer wheels were burned and the old street signs were put back up. There had been air raids and rationing and a couple of more poisoned waterworks, but, as ever, the war was just life, just how things clicked along – one exhausting burst and bloated body at a time.”
Three thousand years of constant killing has to do something to a population and the environment. Umayma is certainly no paradise with areas of it contaminated by biological bombs, human disease carriers and the drafting of men to the front lines. Nasheen and Chenja have solved the dearth of male genetic availability in two different ways. In Nasheen they rely on artificial insemination and breeding tanks for new generations. In Chenja they use a more traditional method of one male to many females to get the job done. Rhys is from Chenja.
Nyx is the goddess of night, the daughter of Chaos, and also the name of our main character. Our Nyx is unpredictable, loyal to those she cares about, principled and passionate. However, values created by people in times of peace or the powerful are not hers. I truly adore Nyx. Hurley portrays her strength and vulnerability in a manner that I can believe and that appeals to me. Definitely my favorite character of the story, and maybe my all-time favorite character.
Rasheeda (shape-shifter) is one loony bird. Holy cow, that woman has sanity issues. No wonder Nyx is wary of her. Bel dames might be sanctioned by the queen, but some of them do messy wet-work with lust and gusto. Creepy lady.
Stephen L. Sweeney states in the front of the 2009 edition of The Honour of the Knights that if you are interested in reading the whole trilogy then you would be wise to favor the 2011 edition. I read the 2009 edition (Mr. Sweeney’s first novel).
The Honour of the Knights is pure space opera with a military setting. I have no idea as to how realistic that setting is. Placing the fighting in space opera gives Mr. Sweeney the freedom to play with reality. In many ways space opera is fantasy due to the many breaches of physical laws that occur. This story is no exception to that.
I see that Estelle has been changed into a less ambitious person in the second edition. Bummer. I kind of liked that about her. I’m not sure I like her, but her character was fun and like some real life people I have met. Considering the type of work Mr. Sweeney used to have, I imagine he has met his share of Estelles. Kelly seemed to be the opposite of Estelle.
Kelly’s character was the one that was most difficult to fit in with a pilot and military culture. She seemed too spaced out most of the time. Perhaps that is a prejudice of mine – that spaced out people won’t fit with a pilot and military unit. Other than that she seemed to fit well with her unit. Maybe I just read her wrong.
Dodds is the main character in the 1st edition. We meet him at the beginning of the story and follow him through to the end. He seems to have a hero complex, one that led him into serious trouble in the past. He travels from his parents’ farm to his assignment in another solar system and meets up with his team. Parks, his commanding officer, expects Dodds to clean up his act, but once Dodds is back with his unit, old habits surface.
The Honour of the Knights is a good first novel. There are hiccups here and there but they did not interfere with the story. This was Mr. Sweeney’s unique take on a space yarn. I recommend it – but go for the 2nd edition rather than the 1st.