Monday, August 29, 2011

A Review of Echoes of Savanna by Lucinda Moebius

In general, if you’re going to write a science fiction book with a strong female lead character you’ve got something working against you when I get ready to read it.  That something is Robert Heinlein.  I was introduced to science fiction with one of his books way back in 1981 when I was eleven.  A few years later, Friday comes out.  Okay, let me restate that.  In 1983, WJ Rosser is right in the early stages of puberty and he read a Robert Heinlein book about an attractive secret agent-like courier who was also a genetically superior clone creature with very liberal policies about sex. 

Bottom line, if you have a female lead in a hard science fiction piece, you’re up against all of my pre-conceived Heinlein-induced puberty-infused perceptions (Go ahead and try to say that ten times fast—start with “pre-conceived.”) about cool female science fiction characters.  I only post a review if I like a book, and you can find out why I don’t give negative reviews if you’d like.  I thought I would be letting the book sink digitally into my recycle bin.  If I don’t like the book, I forget about it.  You’d never hear about it from me.

When I do like a book, however, I write about it here.  I liked Echoes of Savanna.  It’s almost post-apocalyptic in plot.  The year’s 2032, and the world is ravaged by war and terrorism.  A biological weapon has unleashed disease, and everything has just gone to hell in a hand basket.  Enter Moebius’ character Savanna.  She’s a smart doctor doing everything she can to figure out how to rid the world of manufactured illnesses and facing constant scrutiny by a population that still views women as secondary.

There are things about the book I really enjoyed.  First, Moebius effortlessly swings from one time to another.  You’re reading.  You turn a page.  It’s weeks or months later.  It works, too.  Rather than confuse the narrative, it underscores the whole strange futuristic world with its uncertainty and its ongoing chaos.  Add to that a real “life goes on” flavor to it.  There’s a desire for normalcy in the book, a desperate attempt to have a regular life in a regular environment.  “Terrorists are sending out horrible diseases that might kill us all, but I still need to get up and go to work.  Do your homework and your chores.  Fall in love.  Life goes on.”  So many science fiction books treat the characters as though everyone is instantly able to assimilate into a new paradigm with no attempts to keep the old.  Not Moebius, her characters struggle to maintain.

I had a few minor problems with the book.  The dialogue is a little stilted, and that’s one of the things I expect Moebius will iron out as she writes more of the books in this series and further develops her craft.  There are some minor plotting problems, really small irritations.  There are a few inconsistencies in description and one particularly interesting situation when burns are treated with a home remedy made with honey, garlic, and herbs.  It’s just a little too counterintuitive in the book that is otherwise all about scientific responses to medical issues.  Finally, there are just a few editing problems and misspellings, although that may have been the digital copy the author provided me.

Overall, Echoes of Savanna is a smart and well crafted book.  I like the way Moebius drew me in to a character and a setting I was inclined to pass up.  Instead, I enjoyed the story, and I think you’ll enjoy it, too.  Pick it up, and keep your eyes out for the next Haven book.

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