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Monday, May 4, 2015

Starmind by Spider and Jeanne Robinson

First appeared in Analog as a serialized novel. It was up for the Canadian SF Aurora award.
Rand Porter has been offered a job on High Orbit with luxury quarters in a fine hotel. His wife, the famous writer Rhea Paixao, fights to stay on Earth. Their marriage crumbles as attacks on Stardancers attempt to destroy all that the Fireflies and Stardancers have built up.

The famous story series or story suites in SF--Isaac Asimov's robot stories, Fred Saberhagen's killer machines--accrue heft, weight, power. It isn't just hauling in robots, story after story, but examining different aspects of the subject.

The first two novels in Spider and Jeanne Robinson's Stardancer trilogy accomplish that. The third teases out a more constant stream of drama with an ending designed for the ultimate utopia, but the novel doesn't build upon the foundation of the first two. The events don't hang together--marriage difficulties over working in space, assassination attempt, suicide plans, hankypanky, a plot to destroy the Stardancers, and a humanity uplift. It does expand the utopia elements of the second novel toward the end, but what the novel treats is difficult to pin down as it attempts to weave several threads that don't tie together well. True, that's life. But we select related parts of life to tell a narrative that gels, to make it more than the sum of its parts.

Each story in this series has hit the reset button. They start on Earth, take us to space, then give us a glimpse of the alien.  What's needed now is a new final novel, that takes us deep into the heart of these aliens, examining the following issues (at least these are what I'd been waiting to explore since the first novella):

  1. Who and how the Fireflies are
  2. Who and how the Stardancers become
  3. How do they all communicate (dancing as communication was a key element of the first novel)
  4. How do the Fireflies and Stardancers fit into the grander scheme of the universe (lots of other aliens out there and what does that mean)
  5. Why they meddle in human affairs/evolution (nanotech, etc.) --mention of other species/planets if they do this all the time
Probably the best voice for this would be Shara Drummond or Charlie from the first novel as they can fill in the historical gaps and create a bridge between novels. Or maybe someone who doesn't feel at ease being part of the Stardancer group--an outsider voice both to create drama and to introduce us to this new utopic species since we are outsiders ourselves.

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