Enter into Neth Space and you will find thoughts and reviews of books and other media that fit the general definition of speculative fiction. This includes the various genres and sub-genres of fantasy, science fiction, epic fantasy, high fantasy, hard sci-fi, soft sci-fi, new weird, magical realism, cyberpunk, urban fantasy, slipstream, horror, alternative history, SF noir, etc. Thoughts are my own, I'm certainly not a professional, just an avid reader avoiding his day job.
Thursday, March 13, 2014
Review: Fortune’s Pawn by Rachel Bach
Fiction can at times be a tricky genre, especially for those who haven’t read a
whole lot of it. It can be very dense as it relies on words and concepts that
it assumes a reader is familiar with. So, it’s often the case that someone relatively
new to science fiction is not and thus they dislike what they read. In
response, there is often discussion on entry-level science fiction, which, as
it sounds, is science fiction that provides a good entry into the genre for the
common issue in science fiction is the general lack of diversity of those
writing it (or at least a perceived lack of diversity depending on the view
point) – there is often a lack of women/minorities/etc. writing and/or as the
intended audience. Sure, there are notable exceptions, and this is a generality,
but it’s certainly the case, particularly with the most prominent and heavily
marketed science fiction in the market.
Fortune’s Pawn by Rachel Bach (aka Rachel Aaron) can be considered an answer to
both of those issues.
It is an
entry-level science fiction novel that really does nothing new, but is a whole
of fun to read. We’re talking space marines, mechanized armor, abandoned alien
ships, alien parasites, inter-stellar travel, space hippies, and tasty human
flesh. It’s all the fun of a good military science fiction adventure and it has
the beginning of an interesting space opera. And the way it’s written makes it
a very accessible book.
is indeed a woman writing a science fiction novel and the main protagonist of Fortune’s Pawn also happens to be a
woman (named Devi). The best way I can think of to further illustrate this
aspect of the book is that several reviewers (and even the author herself) have
compared Fortune’s Pawn to urban
fantasy. Now, my initial reaction to this (before reading the book) was to
laugh – it’s set on a spaceship, calling it urban fantasy is absurd. However, I
do see the point now as a shorthand for one of the ways the story sets itself
up with (though the method certainly isn’t only used in urban fantasy). A
strong woman with agency who is not looking for a love interest meets the tall,
dark mysterious man who is hiding a big secret. They hit it off and fall in
love, though there are many complications (in this case evisceration is but
one). Of course this is a classic romantic plot line and one that is often
disparaged by science fiction fans (yes folks, there is even sex in this book).
For me it adds to the book and makes it better and the characters more
interesting. Of course I don’t see how gratuitous violence is often accepted
without question in SFF yet romance (or even sex) is often held at arm’s length
like a nasty set of dirty underwear. So let’s remember that romance in our
fiction is a good thing and in Fortune’s
Pawn it works quite well.
brought up romance, let’s not forget that Fortune’s
Pawn is one hell of an adventure. You could also call it an analog to
Firefly with a motley crew of characters on a spaceship having crazy adventures
through the galaxy. Personally, I wouldn’t – the character development is
almost completely focused on a relative few, the mystery is bigger, the
consequences seem bigger, and the galaxy (and number of species) certainly is. But
I bring up the point because it illustrates that this book has a lot going for
it where most commentary I’ve seen ends up pigeonholing it in one way or
Fortune’s Pawn is simply fun. It is a well executed space adventure that should
have wide appeal and is particularly accessible for relative newcomers to
science fiction. This is just the sort
of book that science fiction needs more of right now and it’s great to see an
author like Rachel Bach deliver in this respect. Fortune’s Pawn is the first book in the Paradox trilogy –
book 2, Honors Knight is available
now and Heaven’s Queen will be
shortly. So, there are no excuses for waiting.
one quibble about this book is the Force. OK, Fortune’s Pawn doesn’t have the actual Force in it, but there is a
mystical energy that space hippies seem to be able to tap into that sounds suspiciously
like the force. In Fortune’s Pawn it
plays no big role(well possibly excepting ___ at the end), but I suspect it’s
something of a Chekov’s Gun. For now I’m merely annoyed by it, hopefully it
works better as things move forward.