An oddly entertaining story about the (mis)adventures of Kate Stevens, Federation diplomat. The author sets up some humorous situations and laughably named characters–like Really Big (her supervisor). For anyone who has ever worked in a government bureaucracy, the bosses and their behavior will be unfortunately all too real. Still, it’s sci-fi–so we have the issues of meals aboard a spacecraft, the effects of gravity that’s higher or lower than Earth’s. That makes for some interesting development of the emigres who live there. On the political side, we have the standard problems of greed, corruption and malfeasance. In examining the development of colony planet cultures the author even tosses in a planetary regime clearly modeled after North Korea–complete with a “Beloved Leader” and not just secret police but secret, secret police. I enjoyed it. You will too if you like your political humor a paler shade of dark than Vonnegut or Dick–maybe a mid-range gray.
An intriguing work of the perhaps no longer new but not yet widely known cli-fi genre (a subset of sci-fi). Lanning develops well the lead character of Lowry Walker, her somewhat estranged (and angry plus manipulative) father, an uncle and the nefarious political villains. She throws in some dishonest politicians and the corrupt intent of–yes, latter-day colonialists against what in Canada are known as First Nation folks, just like what happened in the USA way back when. But then, all is not what it seems in the conflict over who really attempted to sabotage the International Space Station (ISS). Despite her credentials, the author doesn’t make this a truly hard sci-fi story so don’t be put off by technological talk–it’s not much more than most of us are familiar with in today’s world. A great book. I’ve already downloaded the next book in the series, which apparently stands alone along with an upcoming third one.
Many folks have heard the admonition to “write from life,” especially those who are writers. Broken World is styled as fiction but the characters are so real that one might easily conclude there were some biographical (if not autobiographical) elements to it. Assuming not, then Hightower has some good observational skills and a vivid imagination enabling the creation of a very dysfunctional extended family of characters. Parents who verbally abuse children. Spouses who argue with one another. Self-absorbed people who justify their own misbehavior and withdrawal into small worlds of their own. It’s not a book with a happy ending. Nonetheless, it’s entertaining and worth reading for how the protagonist, Byrd Keane, escapes the insanity of the broken world that surrounds him by his excursions outdoors in rural New Mexico. He is intelligent beyond his twelve years and seemingly one of the few normal characters in the book. In some ways, I can see elements of John Irving mixed with Kurt Vonnegut. Take note that the fictional northern New Mexico town that Byrd lives in is called Alma Perdido, which means Lost Soul in Spanish. It could mean abandoned, missing or other things; you be the judge if you read the book.
Still good, but I’m getting less keen on the Julia Child parts, the song lyrics and the church services. The characters, the crimes and looking for foreshadowing is all there. It’s not quite a “cozy mystery,” as I understand the term but it is certainly not as hardcore as some. So if you are looking for less blood, gore or heavy violence (It does have some but not too graphic) then this is a good choice.