Joan (Carol) D(ennison) Vinge

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Anthony R. Lewis

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[The title novella in Fireship] is a competent adventure story. The protagonist, whom we do not meet until late in the story, has by his existence called into being an antagonist. This antagonist would normally be considered the hero. He is a human/computer symbiosis, not a cyborg. The computer personality is more appealing than the human in most aspects. The "hero" gets involved in interplanetary intrigue, fights assorted villains, wins in the end, and gets to bed a female. But the culmination is not that of the typical super-agent story. Victory is achieved by the (not-quite Hegelian) synthesis of the protagonist (villain) and the antagonist (our hero) which suggests a higher order of human/computer symbiosis is possible…. [By itself, this story] would not justify the book.

The second novella, Mother and Child, more than justifies the existence of this book…. The story is this: an alien planet, with two cultures. One is agricultural worshipping the Mother Goddess (the Kotaane), the other is urban and patriarchal (the Neaane). The Kotaane have an additional sense, which is either absent in the Neaane or is suppressed by deliberate mutilation. These cultures are coming into conflict. Mixing into this is a second group of aliens, the Colonial Service. A Kotaane priestess, pregnant by her smith husband, is stolen by Neaane forces and becomes concubine to their king. Her subsequent life, childbirth, exile, and recovery form the story. It is a good story. As for the plot; you may have read something similar called the Iliad (by Homer's time all the major plots were known).

This story has aliens; two types of aliens. They don't act alien; they seem to be human beings. This is not a failure of imagination on the writer's part. It is, rather, a recognition of the existence of certain universals necessary to build a culture. These are needed if you are discoid, amorphous, felinoid, or even humanoid. Could this story have been about Earth humans at different technological levels? Yes. Why then is it SF?… The story is about love and loyalty and integrity and courage. Perhaps it is the inclusion of these characteristics that makes it SF; these qualities are rarely found in the current mainstream novels. There are villains but they are not completely evil; their good is a different and conflicting good from that of the protagonists. Be it understood, there is evil in the Neaane culture; the evil of suppressing abilities and human qualities, of persecuting people for what they are, rather than what they do. If you keep working at it, good wins in the end because evil is intrinsically weak. Again, maybe that's why this got labelled SF instead of mainstream. The story is worth reading. (pp. 165-66)

Anthony R. Lewis, in a review of "Fireship," in Analog Science Fiction/Science Fact, Vol. XCIX, No. 10, October, 1979, pp. 165-66.

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