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Mary Gentle, Ancient Light

Bleh. I kind of loved the apocalyptic ending of this book, but I kind of hated pretty much everything else. Too much ado about nothing, characters who were utterly opaque to me but who the narrator told me were being sardonic or sly or bitter, the nictating membranes on their alien eyes communicating subtle shifts in feeling. Too subtle for me. I got fed up with it halfway through and stopped paying close attention, so I couldn't really tell you if Gentle accomplished what she was trying to accomplish.

To me this one (and its predecessor, Golden Witchbreed) was a prime example of something Le Guin criticized in "From Elfland to Poughkeepsie", which was a novel of the fantastic bogged down by mundane politics. Why was this story set on an alien planet? Why was this story told as science fantasy? The best part of it was the deep story of what happened in Orth's ancient past, but even there I wasn't sure what the story was supposed to be. Was it a story of technology as death instinct? I admired the overwhelming sense of nihilistic futility that comes in the conclusion, but the New Wavers could get this across in 200 pages. Did it really need so many repetitive descriptions of facial scar tissue and achy arm stumps?

Well, not my cup of tea, obviously. A thousand pages (between the two books) of the wrong tea for me. Too many descriptions of drinking bitter tea! So I'll stop.

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