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Tuesday, September 20, 2005

cover of Light Raid

I picked up this book to read just for some fun, light reading-- because I enjoy Connie Willis' work, and her other collaboration with Cynthia Felice that I have read (Promised Land) is an entertaining, quick read-- but it turns out, in a way, that it is [slightly] relevant to our current events, with hurricane Katrina. The main character, Ariadne, is a teenager who has been evacuated to Victoria because of the dangers of war between Quebec and the Western States-- and when I read about her fears and frustrations with being evacuated, I thought about all the people displaced by hurricane Katrina. The title comes from the main form of attack used: laser beams from satellites, which cut through anything and reduce houses to rubble (presumably based on the term "air raid", but upgraded for the future). Of course, most of the cultural relevance quickly disappears as the (of course) clever and beautiful Ariadne escapes evac and treks back home, out of concern for her parents' safety, and the novel quickly turns into something of a cloak-and-dagger story: where Ariadne is continually uncertain who she can trust, including her parents and the dashingly handsome ladies' man, Prince Miles Essex, and his "nice-looking" assistant Joss Liddell, who seems to be something more than a servant.

There's a delightful sort of Dickensian character in the early part of the book. Mrs. Ponsonsby has taken in to her home many of the poor children orphaned or evacuated because of the war. But, of course, this is only because of the money the Red Cross will pay her for taking care of the children, and she is delighted to have Ariadne (however briefly), who is old enough to take care of the babies. I don't know if it was the name or the behavior or both, but it seemed like the kind of character Dickens might create (particularly if he were writing speculative cloak-and-dagger war fiction).

One thing that bothered me a bit about this book was the slang-- some of it took me a while to figure out (they start you right in with "diping" as a verb-- to put a diaper on a baby), and some seemed a bit silly, such as "batellite", for a battle satelllite (those that cause the light raids, of course). In general, I think slang usually makes a fictional place feel more realistic and lived in-- but, when it is jarring, or just sounds like something people wouldn't actually say, it is distracting.

Also interesting was the use of Greek names. Ariadne's full name is Hellene Ariadne, her father is named Dares, and her mother is Medea. They work for a company called Hydra corp, and the powerful, intuitive supercomputer that runs behind everything at the company is called Minerva. The book suggests (although I think it never explicitly says) that the societal structure is based around companies that operate more like families, and this particular one is Hellenic.

I enjoyed reading Light Raid quite a bit. There are enough twists and turns to keep things unpredictable (although the romance is rather predictable). This is a better book than Promised Land, and makes me think that I really ought to check out some of Cynthia Felice's work sometime.

Title:Light Raid
Author:Connie Willis & Cynthia Felice
Date published:1989
Genre:Science Fiction
Number of pages:263


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