Nov 29 2007
Dear Ms. Sinclair,
Janine loved a book of yours she read a few months ago and that plus the posts asking us to try and review more RSF books is what got me to try “Down Home Zombie Blues.” Like Jane, I’m still not too sure of the title but as a relative newcomer to the genre, the book itself worked well for me.
Yes, you use lots of Star Trek references but it does give a good, quick visual reference for readers and with a book of this length, there’s not much extra room for long drawn out descriptions. Even though it does come off at times as cheating.
You tell us that Jorrie is a 8 year veteran Guardian who’s also got real life experience as an Interplanetary Marine fighting the major enemies of the state. I love that throughout the story, she remains a focused, battle tested warrior though I did get tired of Theo referring to her as his one woman army. She’s faced the worst that her world can throw at her and remains dedicated to her job. Though she’s willing to jettison some of the gen pro regulations when the need arises. She doesn’t do anything out and out stupid to advance the plot and the missteps she makes I think are adequately explained and understandable.
I like the fact that as a policeman, Theo watches, notes facts, waits to get the full picture and doesn’t go off the deep end when confronted with the incontrovertible fact of life from outer space. He stays calm, uses his intelligence and works the problem without making it worse. No silly tantrums, or “I don’t believe this is happening” or “we’re different from all the other Nil tech worlds you’ve encountered.” I like that you do have some dirtballers who want to question things and who act in ways that the Guardians warn Theo they will when confronted with off world advanced technology. I have noticed that in the RSF I’ve read that centers on aliens landing on Earth, there’s a tendency to try to portray us as somehow better than any other Nil tech world. Would we be?
But one major problem I had was how is Vekran so similar to spoken English? I could see that a la Battlestar Galactica we might be distant descendants of ancient space travelers but how can a language which is constantly evolving and which is so totally different from its origins and today is such a hodgepodge from different languages be similar? Okay, it’s your book and apart from some “universal translator” implant, this was an easy way for the inhabitants of the dirtball to understand the aliens but it makes no sense. I can also see why you’d want to avoid mention of any more implants since there are enough of those already and nasty things they are too.
I’m coming at the story from the vantage point of someone who doesn’t read a great deal of SF or RSF and for me in my blissful ignorance, the story worked fairly well (aside from the language). I thought the R was worked well into the SF story and speaking as someone who usually doesn’t like rushed romances, I had no problems with this one. I’m still puzzling that bit out. I thought you kept the suspense up and didn’t obviously manipulate the plot “just where it’s needed” to get what you want and where you wanted it to go. There were enough disadvantages for each side but they were laid out in the beginning and not suddenly mentioned.
Is this the end of this series or will we see more battles between the Guardians and the Tresh? Like Jan, I would have liked to have seen some nuances to the villains. The zombies are not sentient beings and are for the most part totally controlled by computer codes and the Tresh are very two dimensional. The word count for the book is long so maybe you felt the need to cut somewhere and this is what you chose? But as Diana Norman stated in a recent interview, this creates villains who don’t caste a shadow. Overall though, I was happy with my reading experience and do intend to try some more of your stories and other RSF. B-