(Roc Books, Canada $34.50 / US $22.95, 314 pages, hardback, 2003.
Although set in the same universe as S.L. Viehl's StarDoc series, this book is a stand-alone involving new characters.
It does bring back some favorite (and unfavorite) cultures and customs:
the clannish Jorenians, the obnoxiously bigoted Terrans, and the game
of shockball. If you think hockey is rough, imagine playing it with
an electric puck.
Thus, enter Jory Rask, a professional shockball player and very illegal
alien. In the very first chapter she loses her mother, then gets beaten
to a pulp and kicked off the planet. From there things just get worse.
Obeying the wishes of her dead mother, Jory sets off to find the other
"ClanChildren of Honor" ... six other half-Jorenian offspring sired
after their mothers were captured in a raid and sold to slavers. Together
they find out what honor and family are really about, in a universe
that pays more lipservice than respect to both.
Viehl has created a future far darker than average for space-faring
science fiction, and embarrassingly plausible. You'll recognize the
petty politics, the snobbery, the robber-barons, the myriad faces of
I'm-better-than-you even when some of the faces are covered in fur or
scales. Fast ships and fascinating technology can't make up for a near-complete
lack of anything resembling ethics.
Yet there are also characters who refuse to give up just because the
world is a mucked-up mess. They insist on behaving with integrity even
with few or no good examples, creating neutral ground in the midst of
war and chaos. They fight for freedom beyond hope, and when the rules
are no good, they throw the rules out the window and make new ones.
That's what being a hero means.
Blade Dancer is a gripping adventure with a warm side that
sneaks up and snuggles when you least expect it. There's an edge to
it that reminds me of cyberpunk, though it's not really computer-oriented.
Especially check it out if you're interested in racism, classism, and
other social barriers. People who enjoy playing or watching contact
sports will appreciate the author's fervent loyalty to game detail and
its effects on the characters. Highly recommended.
Review by Elizabeth Barrette.