Thursday, December 28, 2017

58. Ring of Swords by Eleanor Arnason

I am not sure why I put Eleanor Arnason on my book hunting list.  I thought it was more for her fantasy but so far I have only found her sci-fi books.  I am starting to suspect that she is not totally to my style.  Ring of Swords is the second book of hers that I have read.  The first, To the Resurrection Station, was also her first book and you can see in Ring of Swords that her skill as a writer and developer of themes is significantly more mature and evolved.  It's the story of Anna Perez, a biological researcher on a remote planet where humans also happen to be trying to negotiate a peace treaty with the alien Harwarth.  She gets accidently involved in the negotiations when she befriends the human traitor/translator, a naval officer who had been captured decades before in one of the earliest skirmishes with the aliens.

It's a quiet, thoughtful book. Ultimately, it is about two very different cultures trying to figure each other out.  The perspective is mainly from the Harwarth side, who are militarily more powerful and extremely rigid about gender roles.  It is a strictly homosexual society, where the males all go out and fight and have relationships with each other.  The women stay back on the home planet and tend to make the broader strategic decisions.  War for the Harwath follows strict rules that only men can be killed.  Their dillemma is that us humans don't follow those rules and they have to decide how to engage in a war with such an enemy.

It's quite interesting and thoughtful and very well-written.  This is a true science fiction book for people who like reading about complex social thought experiments and to look critically at our own social mores and gender constructs.  From that perspective, it was a worthwhile read.  For myself, it was just a bit too close to non-fiction and I had trouble really getting into it. I think I need to find out what is the one classic of Eleanor Arneson, read that and then put her on my backlist.

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