Friday, June 5, 2020

Speaking Dreams

Severna Park
Completed 5/29/2020, Reviewed 5/29/2020
4 stars

Maybe I’m becoming a softy, but I really liked this lesbian space opera about a galactic empire, evil slavers, and vicious aliens.  I thought it was well-written even though the pacing was uneven.  The plot was surprisingly exciting.  I was especially gripped by the whole concept of a slaver race keeping planets of humans as breeding grounds for their slavery industry.  It was horrifying and emotionally pretty gut-wrenching.  This book was nominated for a Lambda Literary Award for Lesbian Sci Fi/Fantasy in 1993.

Costa is a young woman on a planet which Sector, the enslaving race, uses to breed slaves.  Costa is destined to marry and bear lots of children.  But she has several secrets.  First, she likes women.  Second, she has dreams that give her detailed events of the near future, usually, the events of the next day.  She uses the information from these dreams to try to thwart the Sector.  The problem is, she usually doesn’t think the actions through and causes more harm than good.  Eventually, her actions get her into serious trouble and instead of bearing children, she is made a slave. 

Two years later, Mira LoDire, a diplomat for the Emirate that controls a large part of the galaxy, buys Costa.  Mira is against slavery, but is ordered to buy one by her superior officer so as to be taken seriously in upcoming negotiations with Sector.  Costa is nearly despondent from the abuse she’s received as a slave.  It takes her a while to heal emotionally.  At the same time, an alien race of bloodthirsty insect-like aliens is threatening the Emirate.  Because of her past on her slave planet and her dreams, Costa and Mira become entangled in a dangerous powerplay between Sector and the Emirate.

I really liked Mira.  She’s a down to earth woman who buys Costa because she wants to save and protect her, not because she’d made a good slave.  At first, Mira’s dismissive of Costa’s prescient abilities as it is not known that slaves are bred with any psychic powers.  But she eventually comes around as the dreams turn into reality.  Her transition from doubter to believer is done well.  Costa was harder to warm up to.  Even though the book begins with her, I got frustrated with how she didn’t seem to learn from her mistakes when acting out on her dreams.  That development took a long time, but when it did, it made her much more likable. 

Of course, Mira and Costa fall in love.  At first, I was a little uneasy with it.  I wondered if it was akin to Stockholm Syndrome.  But it wasn’t that at all, and their relationship developed well.  And together with the excitement of the book, it became a romance I found myself cheering for.  It’s not a romantic novel with science fiction.  It has what I thought was an appropriate amount for any novel. 

As I noted above, I thought the whole way the author dealt with slavery was done really well.  I thought the whole concept of a future that had regressed to a slavery economy was well done.  I had such empathy for the enslaved.  It was easy to hate the slavers.  They were out and out evil.  Maybe too inhuman.  The book is told third person from Mira and Costa’s point of view, so we never know what makes the slavers tick.  But I was cheering so hard for them, I didn’t really care about the slavers.

I give the book four stars out of five.  Despite having a pretty good emotional response to it, I thought the book was a little flawed.  Some of the science is not described well.  A hardcore science fiction fan may take issues with some of it, like the instantaneous interstellar communication.  And there were times when the book really dragged.  But in general, the writing is good, the dialogue is smart, the plot is enjoyable, and the suspense engrossing.

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