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Games of Command

I don't often have a chance to read printed novels in their finished form a whole week before they're officially published, but that's exactly what happened with Linnea Sinclair's newest novel, Games of Command. It's being published in the U.S. next week, but Forbidden Planet London had stock in a good week-and-a-half early.

Sinclair's science fiction romance novels are what started me on my romance science fiction project this past fall. They operate squarely in both genres at the same time. Games of Command is a slice of space opera, the entanglements of multiple space-faring governments, telepaths, alternate non-dimensions, human machines, and the complications which necessary secrets bring to human relationships.

Overall, it was an engrossing book, with deep dark sides to balance the froth of flirtful repartee, and frequent minor resolutions to balance the tension of both romantic uncertainty and certain doom. Furzel-speak stopped being irritating rather quickly, to my relief, and parts of the ending were either pat or elegantly concise, depending on how you look at it. But there were still plenty of secondary loose ends left to give the universe life beyond its last page.

Observation: The first few pages of Games of Command were chock-full of science fictional terms, place names, technology names, nicknames, and organizations. Immersed as I've been in Heyer novels lately, I noticed that an initial barrage of space-related terminology is awfully similar to an initial barrage of getting to know a half-dozen characters, all of which have a name, a title, and a nickname, any one of which they may be referred to by.

P.S. Games of Command comes out on February 27th. If you'd like more actual concrete details about the book and its plot, there's a more extensive review of it here.


( 17 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 22nd, 2007 09:51 pm (UTC)
I've not read this, but out of curiosity is the background some kind of space war? I have a pet theory regarding most of current sci-fi that I'm curious to see if it fits.
Feb. 22nd, 2007 09:53 pm (UTC)
Sort of. It's set between space wars.
Feb. 22nd, 2007 10:16 pm (UTC)
*nod* I've thought that most science fiction series (and a fair amount of alternate history series) that are being written and published these days tend to center on the military in the future or a militaristic setting. Not that that is necessarily a new trend, just that it seems to be much closer to the surface. Sci-fi seems to be less about ideas and more about action.
Feb. 22nd, 2007 10:18 pm (UTC)
Ideas in what sense? I'm wondering how military logistics/tactics don't constitute ideas. Or rather, for what are you using "ideas" as a shorthand?
Feb. 22nd, 2007 10:21 pm (UTC)
To be clear: GoC really has almost nothing about military logistics/tactics. But I'm still curious as what you mean.
Feb. 22nd, 2007 10:38 pm (UTC)
I think I probably am using it as a shorthand (I'm running on very little sleep, which is no excuse, but hopefully an explanation).

It seems to me that first wave science fiction primarily dealt with technologies and scientific topics, and the possible extrapolation of future societies and future concerns based on those topics. In a lot of ways, the characterization was a sketch and the topic was the actual star. There was somewhat of a what-if aspect of it. Here I'm talking about the short stories that came out of Analog and Amazing...the Asimov/Heinlein crowd.

Second wave, on the other hand, dealt more with the social issues surrounding science fiction -- the LeGuin, Varley, etc. sort of stories. Still a what-if sort of situation, but now the characters were more important and rather than the scientific issue being the star, it is the situation and thus the characters have to react to that situation. What does it mean to live forever? To be able to change your gender at will? To really meet with the other?

The current crop, which Ringo and Weber seem to be at the top of, seem to be approaching it as setting, rather than situation or star. The real story could, with minor technological changes, be a fantasy story or a story of any group of soldiers.

By no means does that mean that any of these are wrong or bad, but it seems to me that the science fiction ideas of either a technological or societal bent are not what the story is really exploring. Instead, it's the relationships between the various military or civilian figures within the setting created by those technological or societal ideas.

Alternate history does this too to some extent, although to me the attraction there is always the juxtaposition of what is and was could have been. The what if aspect I like so much is there in spades. I know it's tangental, but I felt in writing this that I needed to explain why I enjoy Weber or Ringo (or Flint, with his 16XX series and Belisarius books) when they're writing alternate history but not as much when it's straight sci-fi. For my own sake, if not for the conversation.
Feb. 22nd, 2007 11:15 pm (UTC)
I had a moment's worry when your two example SF writers were ones that at first thought I'd never heard of! Then I realized that this is because I've been much more tuned in to the UK SF scene lately - and, having looked up Webb and Ringo, at least I recognize a number of their books, even if I haven't read any of them.

GoC has a military setting, even if somewhat in peacetime, but one of its central difficulties is the challenges facing a man wired to be emotionless, who finds himself in love despite the programming and psychological surveillance he regularly undergoes to ensure this. He's cyborg, a source of great power and great paranoia to him. Does that constitute placing the idea in the foreground? It's not the only thing happening in the foreground - there's a great deal of adventure as well.

It's funny you should identify action as being more a modern trait of SF when I loosely associate it with earlier decades. (Doyle's The Lost World; Burrough's Barsoom novels) Not that it can't be both in different ways.

I don't feel I'm very well-read with current SF, so hesitate to make generalizations myself. But I know plenty of people who study it, so, if they don't respond, I may ask them about their thoughts on current trends.
Mar. 13th, 2007 05:53 pm (UTC)
The day after you left this comment, I was over at a friend's house and saw, on the bookshelves, a slew of books by both David Weber and John Ringo. I was relieved to know you were right - they are popular authors, and ones I was entirely unaware of. Several of the Ringo covers were familiar looking, at least. I asked about them, and of the two Ringo's work sounds more intriguing to me right now.

Two days after that, I went to lunch with two of my SF scholars I know and asked them. They said that militaristic SF is more typical of American SF right now than anything else, but that there's a great many other things happening there too. In the UK currently, there isn't much of a trend in that direction.
Mar. 13th, 2007 06:07 pm (UTC)
Did they happen to give you any title suggestions? Sci-fi is not my field of study, so I've been going off of what I see on the bookshelf when I'm at the chain stores with silversunshadow. If there's other stuff out there, I'd love to get ahold of it.
Feb. 22nd, 2007 10:10 pm (UTC)
These sound like fun, but I seem to have lost my ability to read romance novels. Heyer is almost an exception (and of course I can always read Austen, which are romance novels with excellent characters, dialogue, and narrative), but mostly, I pick them up and think, "meh." So maybe I should try some Sinclair? if I won't be annoyed ...?
Feb. 22nd, 2007 10:19 pm (UTC)
What about reading romance novels has disengaged you lately? What aspects of them? (i.e. if you don't tell me what annoys you, I can't answer your questions!)
Feb. 22nd, 2007 10:21 pm (UTC)
The formulaic plots and cupboard of stock adjectives? The inability to suspend disbelief because love and life, in my experience, never are like that?
Feb. 22nd, 2007 10:26 pm (UTC)
And this is from someone who *has* fallen for someone in the space of a moment to no more than several hours and seen it turn into a relationship that lasted for at least a couple of years. And had plenty of those wonderful 'shared insults and witty flirtatious bickering' experiences and seen them go nowhere. I may have become too cynical about love and relationships, although like all historians, I am at my very heart an optimist.
Feb. 22nd, 2007 10:45 pm (UTC)
If those are your problems with the romance genre (about which, you may remember, I know very little), you should do fine with Sinclair's work. There's a healthy dose of cynicism, with people-who-have-fallen-for-each-other-or-might-potentially-do-so regularly torn apart - way, way, way apart - by being on conflicting sides of a political situation.
Feb. 23rd, 2007 01:41 am (UTC)
Much of my undergraduate career included sitting on the beach and doing homework, interrupted by sitting on the beach reading crap romance novels, mystery novels, and sff novels. Mostly crap romance, though, because I couldn't at the time put sff novels down once I started them. Not so good for the homework.

I had a tan then. And white-blonde hair. And still looked out of place on the beach. Miss the sailing, though.
Feb. 23rd, 2007 09:42 am (UTC)
I more-or-less gave up reading fiction for the last two years of my dissertation. I still read it while I traveled, or, if was compulsively urgent, over weekends, but I didn't dare start books which risked distracting me during work time, so it was easier just not to read much fiction at all.

That's been one of the truly decadent things about this past year - I can read fiction again! And it's okay for me to do so, as long as I keep on top of my to-do list and get enough else done on a regular basis.
Feb. 23rd, 2007 09:40 am (UTC)
P.S. Games of Command comes out officially on February 27th.
( 17 comments — Leave a comment )