RogerBW's Blog

Silence in Solitude, Melissa Scott 11 January 2024

1986 SF, second of its trilogy. Silence Leigh, already a hyperspace pilot, has now had some training as a magus, and is ready to have another try at travelling to lost Earth.

The first book was a picaresque: look at this fascinating and hazardous universe, and its glorious system of space travel using celesial harmonies. This one is more of a caper; after the attempt to reach Earth fails to overcome the defences, all that's left is one hint at an older approach to FTL travel which might be able to bypass them. But the details are lost, so this needs a collector of ancient artifacts. Which would be fine, but he wants a small job done first…

…so from about a quarter of the way through, the main business of the book is a rescue from a harem. The satrap who has the vital item wants to overthrow the Hegemon, but his daughter is being held as an honoured hostage in the Women's Palace… and it'll take a magus to sneak in and get her out… and because the Hegemony is profoundly sexist, all his agents (and all other magi) are men.

My feeling on this re-read was that if the first book established the rules this second book is having adventures within the rules. Which is fine, and it's good and well-written and it's great to see this kind of magical problem-solving (in particular how Silence modifies a library access card to allow her to touch any book rather than just the ones she's authorised to look at)… but in order to maintain dramatic tension, we need to know what's possible, and there's inevitably less sense of wonder than in the first book where the characters knew what could be done but the reader didn't.

The action is good; the relationships between Silence and various new and returning characters are fine. (Particular as she realises that, since her own experience is mostly of being the only woman who gets things done rather than sitting around being decorative (and playing deadly social power games), she has been participating in the same assumption of female incompetence as the men.) But we get less of Silence's relationship with her husbands (initially a marriage of convenience that's slid into genuine love), and less piloting, which seems a shame.

[Buy this at Amazon] and help support the blog. ["As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases."]

Previous in series: Five-Twelfths of Heaven | Series: The Roads of Heaven

Comments on this post are now closed. If you have particular grounds for adding a late comment, comment on a more recent post quoting the URL of this one.

Search
Archive
Tags 1920s 1930s 1940s 1950s 1960s 1970s 1980s 1990s 2000s 2010s 3d printing action advent of code aeronautics aikakirja anecdote animation anime army astronomy audio audio tech aviation base commerce battletech beer boardgaming book of the week bookmonth chain of command children chris chronicle church of no redeeming virtues cold war comedy computing contemporary cornish smuggler cosmic encounter coup covid-19 crime cthulhu eternal cycling dead of winter doctor who documentary drama driving drone ecchi economics en garde espionage essen 2015 essen 2016 essen 2017 essen 2018 essen 2019 essen 2022 essen 2023 existential risk falklands war fandom fanfic fantasy feminism film firefly first world war flash point flight simulation food garmin drive gazebo genesys geocaching geodata gin gkp gurps gurps 101 gus harpoon historical history horror hugo 2014 hugo 2015 hugo 2016 hugo 2017 hugo 2018 hugo 2019 hugo 2020 hugo 2022 hugo-nebula reread in brief avoid instrumented life javascript julian simpson julie enfield kickstarter kotlin learn to play leaving earth linux liquor lovecraftiana lua mecha men with beards mpd museum music mystery naval noir non-fiction one for the brow opera parody paul temple perl perl weekly challenge photography podcast politics postscript powers prediction privacy project woolsack pyracantha python quantum rail raku ranting raspberry pi reading reading boardgames social real life restaurant reviews romance rpg a day rpgs ruby rust scala science fiction scythe second world war security shipwreck simutrans smartphone south atlantic war squaddies stationery steampunk stuarts suburbia superheroes suspense television the resistance the weekly challenge thirsty meeples thriller tin soldier torg toys trailers travel type 26 type 31 type 45 vietnam war war wargaming weather wives and sweethearts writing about writing x-wing young adult
Special All book reviews, All film reviews
Produced by aikakirja v0.1