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James S.A. Corey
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The Snow Queen

The Snow Queen  - Joan D. Vinge OK, I am going to describe a scene to you, and I want you to then tell me which famous science-fiction property it comes from. Ready?So, this is the climax of the middle part of the story. The hero finally meets up with the primary antagonist. They go head-to-head in a duel on a narrow bridge over a vast abyss. Midway through, our hero learns a stunning piece of news regarding a parental figure, and is then tempted to join the villain in an evil scheme to rule the galaxy.Ha ha, yeah, I did make it pretty easy. Of course I am talking about Joan D. Vinge's The Snow Queen.So, this is a very Star Warsy book, very hero's journey. I might just be grasping at narrative tropes that were obviously very common before George Lucas came on the scene (humble farmer discovers a wider world, plays an active role in world-shattering events, faces darkness and temptation yet triumphs), but I can't overlook the fact that it was published in 1980, just three years after Lucas made Joseph Campbell a household name. Granted, a lot of the material couldn't possibly have been inspired by The Trilogy, but it is almost funny the way the book predicts events in Empire and Jedi.Anyway, broad similarities with other genre entries don't mean this isn't a great book; in fact, it's a damn interesting take on the material, Star Wars from a feminist point-of-view. The hero, Moon Dawntreader (seriously?) is female, for one thing, and an inhabitant of a matriarchal world where one woman, Arienrhod (the semi-villainous Snow Queen of the title), has been in power for more than 100 years and has concocted a scheme to ensure she keeps it. I'm sure you could pick a lot of it apart, even from this angle -- for much of the story, Moon is motivated by her quest to rescue her lost love, who has been seduced into becoming the Snow Queen's dark apprentice -- but she eventually realizes she has her own greater purpose, one motivated by her connection to the women of her bloodline and a great, galaxy-spanning force than unifies the... you know, it really is uncanny.It's a nice change of pace to read a sci-fi novel in which the three primary characters are strong women -- in addition to Moon and the Snow Queen, there's also Police Inspector Jerusha PalaThion, certainly one of the more nuanced female characters in any genre entry I've read. It also manages to create an interesting mythology (somewhat loosely inspired by the Hans Christian Anderson fairytale), about a world that holds the secret to eternal life, is exploited by a Galactic Empire (erm...), and, due to its plot-convenient location near a black hole, disappears, Brigadoon-like, for a century every 150 years. It's all a lot of fun, even though there is hardly any space travel and little in the way of laser fights (one tense showdown involves some flute playing).Despite the fact that it won the Hugo (and has amazing cover art), The Snow Queen has been in and out of print for years (and is currently out). The author was injured in a car accident a decade or so back and has been unable to publish anything new, which might have something to do with it, but this is one book that deserves to be available in bookstores.