Star Born by Andre Norton

Star Born

Star Born brings an interesting twist to science fiction (at least from my experience and perspective). Norton explores the differences of two groups of humanity that have developed differently for decades. That isn’t unusual in itself; what is unique is the subtle differences formed by climate, civilization, governance and genetic strains.

The group that colonized Astra settled into a peaceful existence with the natives of the planet. Technological skills were minimal, but a healthy symbiosis with the planet had developed. Norton obviously styled the settlers after Native American Indians. The “Westerners” or Explorers from Earth are full of strife and struggle with the influences that a complex culture places on people: one character, Raf Kurbi, from Earth stumbled into trouble when he mentioned feelings reminiscent of prejudice. That was an unacceptable faux pas regardless of the instinctual reaction an alien race brought up within him.

In the end, you have three main characters and four racial groups. Dalgard is chief of the characters and represents the Astaran colonists. Raf has traveled with new Terran explorers. Sssurri represents the Astaran Mer-people. Finally, Those Others from the past thought to be extinct.

Dalgard, on a quest to enter manhood, (joined by Sssuri) stumble upon evidence that the evil Others had returned. While Sssuri seeks help against this ancient enemy, Dalgard explores the ruined city of the Others to determine the extent of the return. Meanwhile, Raf and his party have joined forces with the Others who are desirous of assistance against their ancient enemy: the Mer-people. Raf and Dalgard slowly move towards each other and eventually bridge the gap created by a century of differences.

Raf must choose between obedience to his commanding officer who supports the Others and the unknown human being hunted by the Others that his gut tells him to trust. Dalgard, must stand in the gap to assist the Mer-people against this new onslaught of danger.

The decisions made in conclusion leave much to ponder. Are the two groups of humans to separate to be rejoined? Or are they not separated enough? Are the differences to great or to small? What benefit would be gained by rejoining contact now?

Overall? Fun book. Plenty of action, lot of intriguing interaction between the various groups. If you have time, pick this up and read it. Light reading with a creative environment but thought provoking if you want to spend the time and ponder it.

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The Holy Bible, inspired by God; Part 2

The Holy Bible

Having discussed the need to read the Bible, period, lets move on to some ways this book has influenced our society in America. Part of what many people decry as “Westernization” is really the outward signs of a Biblical society. The influence of a book is often considered a sign of its inherent value, and most classics claim their status under said auspices. So, a brief overview…

* The “American way”, is based on a Biblical worldview that includes the Ten Commandments, at least in the most fundamental of senses. Cannibalism, acceptable on most Pacific islands, is wrong. Killing one’s wife (legal in Saudi Arabia) is wrong. Stealing (the way of life for the millions of Chinese who produce most of the world’s pirated goods) is wrong. Even the right to private property is implied in the forbidding of covetousness (one’s neighbor’s donkey being included in the list).
* Our holidays are based on Christian precepts and events. If not directly from the Bible, they all trace back to someone or something that is Biblically based (some more obscured than others). Valentines Day, for instance, is in honor of a Christian pastor, Valentine, of Rome. The emperor Claudius had ordered a moratorium on marriages in hopes of bulking up his army; Valentine continued to marry couples and went to jail (and later beheaded). For protecting the sacredness of the marriage union as something God designed (and, through Paul’s letters, commands lustful men to do!), Valentine was later deemed a Saint, and his day still celebrates love and marriage.
* The concept of consumer rights has its roots in the Bible. The Old Testament exposits severe penalties on builders whose work did not stand up; replacing the house, payment of money, even the death penalty…all invoked depending on the circumstance and level of shoddy workmanship.
* Most culture wars are over social norms that originate in the Bible. Interestingly, the party fighting the war is usually in the minority. To take a very small example, pornography; its illegal, and the few people fight for its legalization. But who decided that viewing images which cause lust is wrong? Pornography was illegal long before the internet made it so easy to access, or before we had studies showing how influential it is in starting a criminal career. God, who can see into men’s minds and hearts, obviously knew what He was talking about when lust was called out as wrong in the Bible. Actually, if anyone knows of a culture war that ISN’T related to the Bible, I’d like to hear about it.
* The present election process is, in a way, related to the question of the Bible’s influence in society. Is it normal to elect someone who believes in the Bible (along with a good 40% of the electorate)? Obama and Clinton both claim to be church-going Christians; on the Republican side, Huckabee was a Baptist preacher. Just an interesting thought as you watch the parties this year; we’ve never had a president who didn’t at least claim to be a follower of the Bible and its teachings.

America isn’t a Christian nation, but our most basic social structures were founded on Biblical principles and precepts (not, as is popularly taught in universities today, Grecian ideals), and understanding the Bible is crucial to understanding the culture of our world today. On the front of social influence, the Bible outpaces all other classics. There are many more points on the cultural influence of the Bible than listed in this review, so if I missed anyone’s favorite example, please bring it up in the commentary section (lets see how many we can come up with).

The Queen of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner

Queen of Attolia

Plot: As I mentioned in my review of “The Thief,” there are four countries, Attolia, Sounis, Eddis and Mede.

Our story begins in Attolia, where we open to find Eugenides sneaking through the queen’s palace. The alarm has been set and they are hunting him down, unalarmed Eugenie’s makes his way to the palace’s outer wall, he becomes increasingly troubled, as soldiers seem to be at every corner. After a good chase through the town, Eugenides runs through the olive groves to the river. It being dark, our hero does not see the boards, nailed between two trees, blocking his path. Banging his head he falls to the ground, unable to rise, the queen’s dogs grab him and keep him down until the guards come for him. After much debate and thought, the queen of Attolia decides to hang him, but through the Mede ambassador’s persuasion, she has Eugenides hand cut off. After a few days lying in pain in his cell, Eugenides is returned to his worried queen. Enraged at the anguish brought to her beloved thief, the queen of Eddis captures the next ten large Attolian caravans that come through the pass, she sends the people home and keeps the merchandise. Attolia tells her to return the merchandise or she will deem it an act of war. War it is.

Eugenides’s hand is healed and he has started appearing in public every now and again. We find out later, that he did not know about the war, only because he didn’t want to. When he does ‘find’ out, he takes action, which the reader will find to be fairly humorous. (At least I did.) Through a series of events, Eugenides is led to leave Eddis and return with a glorious plot for bringing Attolia to her knees. He plans to take a brigade of men and capture the queen of Attolia.

Positive: In this sequel to “The Thief,” the plot is a little more obvious, but not much.

For a brief period in the book our hero sulks around for a bit, but his attitude improves and he stops sulking. Eventually he comes to find, that, even with one hand, he is still dangerous to his enemies. Humor is given at just the proper times, to relieve the stress of seeing our beloved hero go through pain, there also humor when he is not in pain as well. There is not as much humor in this book as in the first, but its still just as funny.

The Queen of Attolia, though bad to start out with, becomes good and repents. This book demonstrates forgiveness, loyalty and trust. Something all of us could use.

Negative: The main negative actions in this book are lying and several swear words, there is little stealing. There are a few references to torture, but nothing is put in detail. Our hero gets his hand cut off, that goes in to some amount of detail, but nothing unbearable. (Thankfully) Following the loss of his hand, he has constant nightmares, which he wakes up screaming to. A woman is threatened with drowning and our hero is slapped a few times. Again, there are gods in this book, (of earth, sky, thieves, mountains etc.) but in the back the authoress states that they were all invented by her imagination. That just about covers it.

Overall: Just as the first, I liked this book very much. I have read it, and its sequel several times over. They are the type that you can read over and over without becoming tedious. Our hero is pure genius, as is our authoress who gave our hero life. And even though we learned much of his character in the first book, it is still unclear what he is really up to many times throughout the plot. The authoress has a fine way of bringing you into her books, and giving you hints as well as keeping the main plot a secret.

I recommend this book to all. If you like a page turning work of fiction, you will love Megan Whalen Turners “The Queen of Attolia.”

The Colors of Space by Marion Zimmer Bradley

The Colors of Space

Some books end to quickly. Others seem to never end. The Colors of Space falls into the former category. Too soon, the story came to a conclusion, though I think that might have been good. The story would either be a short story (this was) or a very long story, but couldn’t have been anything else.

Marion Bradley had an interesting premise: an eighth color that held the key to the stars. As the story develops, you learn that humans have found a second stellar race called the Lharie. The Lharie can travel faster than light and they guard this power jealously. Bart Steele (the lead) finds himself quickly thrown into a plot (against his will) to steal this knowledge for humans. The conspirators mostly desire to be on equal footing with the Lharie instead of reliant upon the Lharie for travel and communications. I say mostly, because the unequal footing and protectionism of the Lharie have promoted racial bigotry and distrust.

The Lharie cannot see colors and rely on humans to help pilot their great vessels. But, the Lharie have perpetrated a great fraud: no human can survive faster than light travel without being placed into cold sleep. So, the Lharie use humans where they can and then put them away to protect their power. Bart finds himself undercover on a Lharie ship attempting to prove that humans can survive the jump while remaining conscious. Through this Bart exploits the greatest weakness of the Lharie: their inability to see colors.

One could easily place the writing of this story: the 1960’s. The major point of the book was to demonstrate that all races are equal even if they have minor differences in appearance. Bradley does a pretty good job of making this appear natural and unforced. Definitely a pleasure to read.

Several caveats. First, there was very mild profanity. Second, and more importantly, I cannot and will not recommend Bradley as an author to read extensively. When preparing for this review, I did a quick check to see when the story was written. What I discovered was an author who wrote homosexual literature under a pseudonym (though she was married when she wrote them), promoted feminism, worshiped the divine femininity and wrapped it all together as a priest in the Gnostic Catholic Church. Wrap all of that together and one should be careful which of her books to read. This one was OK; I can’t speak to the rest.

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