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REVIEW: Escape Velocity by Anah Crow and Dianne Fox

REVIEW: Escape Velocity by Anah Crow and Dianne Fox

Dear Ms. Crow and Fox.

I would not have finished this book if I had not been listening to it on audio book instead of reading it. In fact, I tried multiple times to read it when it was released from Torquere Press and couldn’t. Now revised for and re-released through Carina, it was also made into an audio book, which I’ve been listening to for a week. I’m glad I did finish it, and I’m still thinking about the characters, but I absolutely would not have finished it if I’d been reading instead of listening.

Escape Velocity Anah CrowWhy not? Well, in The Natural History of the Romance Novel Pamela Regis offers eight essential elements that make a romance narrative a romance narrative: 1. society defined as corrupt, 2. the meeting between the protagonists, 3. their attraction to each other, 4. the barrier that keeps them apart, 5. the point of ritual death at which it looks like the relationship is doomed (authors call this the Dark Moment), 6. the realization of how to overcome the barrier, 7. the declaration of their love for each other, and 8. the betrothal or at least commitment to each other at the end (that also reconstructs an uncorrupt society). Regis stresses that these can come in any order in the novel, but usually, they go in the order she and I list them here.

The reason I couldn’t finish this book when I read it (rather than listened) is that the order of this book is: 1. Society defined as corrupt, 2. the meeting, 3. their attraction to each other, 7. their declaration of love, 4. the barrier, 5. the point of ritual death (two of them, in fact), 6. the realization, and 8. the betrothal.

In other words, for the first half of the novel (almost exactly), it’s a nice gentle love story with no narrative tension whatsoever. They meet, fall in love, fuck like bunnies, admit they love each other. Everything’s great…and boring. Then BAM! barrier. And they then spend most of the second half apart because it’s THAT much of a barrier. And while the literary critic in me was intrigued, the reader was…wondering what the point was for half the book. But the listener had spent more than $12 on that damn book and wasn’t stopping for nothing. And I’m glad I stuck with it.

Okay, so plot summary. Elios is a linguist working on Luna (yes, the Moon has a colony–this is far distant future) for the Pandora Project, attempting to decipher the transmissions of a huge, apparently dead ship on the outskirts of…the solar system? Somewhere. Sender is a lead pilot and trainer on the Pandora Project, flying Harpies, the small ships designed as protective fighter ships that will protect the Pandora Project when they go out on their own huge ship to investigate the Pandora. They meet when Elios gets to fly in a two-seater Harpy as a treat for good work. They are attracted, have sex, fall in love, start entwining their lives. Everything seems wonderful. Then Sender gets a message that his parents have died and he’s now sole guardian of his four year old sister.

And here’s the barrier. Sender is from Themis, a free-standing space colony (I imagine something like the Death Star from Star Wars). Themis is overcrowded (only one kid allowed at a time, which is why Katy’s so much younger than Sender, because their parents could only have her after he leaves Themis) and it’s basically the polluted, dreary, overpopulated, soul-destroying factory production hub for the solar system. And the religion on Themis is all about obedience and discipline. Happiness only comes from obedience, not from being…well, happy. Nice way to keep the legions of workers in line, of course, but the religion also condemns homosexuality. So in a far future world, where marriage equality is taken for granted, Themis is a throwback. And Sender hates himself. And Sender’s parents, in their will, want him to raise Katy on Themis, giving up everything he’s worked for (flying, being free, being happy, being loved) for their religion. And…he agrees. He goes back to Luna for a month to get ready to go back to Themis, tells Elios, who assumes Sender’s breaking up with him and leaves him (point of ritual death #1). Then Sender crashes his Harpy, spending weeks in the hospital (point of ritual death #2), so Elios has to take care of Katy, and they find their way back to each other.

So, I couldn’t READ this book because the first half had no tension and the barrier in the second half seemed…anachronistic. Which is a funny thing to say for a book set so far in the future. I just found Sender a little exasperating in his commitment to a religion, a colony, and parents who hated what he was. And I know that was the point, but I personally am pretty sick of “I can’t be gay because my parents will hate me” story-lines in contemporary romances, let alone far-future-set ones.

But, all of that aside, the person narating this book (Charles Carr) did a brilliant job with it. He made sex sound hot (which HAS to be tough to do). He made Sender and Elios obviously different, infusing their words with their characters. I *loved* how he read Sender’s emotional moments. He totally kept me listening and the sweet moments of the story were strong enough to keep me enjoying it, even with all the problems.

Grade: C+

Best regards,
-Sarah F.

P.S. That cover is a million billion times better than the one from Torquere.

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Thursday Midday Links: Steve Jobs Passed Away

Thursday Midday Links: Steve Jobs Passed Away

This should be Apple's new logo. Dope. #SteveJobs on Twitpic

I don’t have any beautiful eulogy to give Jobs and it’s not that I don’t believe that he deserves a beautiful eulogy. He does.  He transformed our collective lives. But I have neither the connection nor the knowledge from which to give voice to a remembrance.  I’ve read several and these are few I thought were amazing:

*****
Tim Cook gave the keynote address on Wednesday of the new iPhone 4S.  Sadly it was uninteresting to most although Apple probably had more important things on its plate.  There was an empty, front row reserved seat at the keynote. It’s faster and it has a digital assistant called Siri.  Siri can set your alarm, make appointments, find restaurants close to you.  Unfortunately, Siri has a woman’s voice.  Maybe that will change in the future and people can choose the sound of the voice.  Assistants aren’t always women.
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There have been a couple important copyright decisions of late:
  • UCLA won the right to stream DVDs to its students without permission of the original copyright owners.  The judge in the case also appeared to hold (although without explicitly reasoning) that anticircumvention of DRM is appropriate if you had a legitimate purchase of the item such as ripping the DVD that you purchased.  Via Ars Technica.
  • Supreme Court refused to hear the appeal of a software company that sued to prevent the resale of software.  The software company asserted that software purchase was a license and not a transfer of ownership but the lower appellate court ruled in favor of the consumer and allowed the resale of the software.  Vernor v. Autodesk, Inc., 10- 1421.
  • Supreme Court refused to hear the appeal of music artists who wanted to be paid a performance fee everytime someone downloaded a song.  The lower appellate court ruled that the download was not a public performance and the artists were not entitled to a performance fee.   A download is considered a reproduction rather than a public performance according to the lower court.  ASCAP v. United States, No. 10-1337
******
Romantic Times reported on the  US Publishers Marketplace semi-annual look at the reported publishing deals. As with all data compilations about publishing, the deal marketplace reports are incomplete. Many authors don’t report their deals, particularly the biggest names.  However, according to the report, publishers are buying more and spending more than they did in previous years.
Statistics are showing that out of the seven most popular sub-categories, only mystery and crime book sales have been increasing. Categories including debut novels and general fiction have held steady. Romance, women’s fiction, science fiction and fantasy have had a slight decline. But the real news — sales for thrillers and inspirational novels have decreased sharply which means there will be fewer of these types of novels on the bookshelves in the upcoming years.
*****
Vook, an enhanced ebook production company, will no longer be selling content. Instead it is looking to license a digital publishing platform.  In January of this year, Vook announced it had raised over $5 million in investment capital.
*****
I’m still trying to wrap my head around this business venture.  Perseus announced that it has created a self publishing distribution platform called Argo Navis. It will only work with agented authors.  The author will receive 70% of the proceeds of each book whereas the distributor keeps 30% of the net.  For this fee, Perseus will distribute your ebook to Amazon, BN, Google, Kobo, Sony and Apple.
In an effort to solve the problem of how to help readers discover e-books without print counterparts on tables in bookstores, Argo Navis will provide basic marketing services, like placing product pages on retailer Web sites. It will also make more extensive marketing services available for a fee.

Seriously?  Basic marketing services is getting a product page on a retailer web site?  Isn’t that what happens as a result of uploading the content?  Publishers Marketplace ran the numbers and said the following (reg required):

That means an author publishing via Argo Navis with a title priced between $2.99 and $9.99 would gross just half of the roughly 70 percent proceeds they would get directly from Amazon (and 65 percent proceeds from B&N). The math is simple: Perseus pays 70 percent of 50 percent (the wholesale price) — which equals 35 percent.

At 35% off the cover, an author, particularly a genre author, would be better off going with Samhain or some other established digital publisher.

******

Audible is hiring some major stars to narrate some big books. I think this is a great move.  I’ve been enjoying the heck out of the Richard Armitage narrated Heyer books Sarah Wendell recommended.

Actors lending their narrative pipes will include Kim Basinger for “The Awakening,” Anne Hathaway for “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” Samuel L. Jackson for “A Rage in Harlem,” and Nicole Kidman for “To the Lighthouse.” Others slated to perform include Annette Bening, Jennifer Connelly, Colin Firth, Dustin Hoffman, Meg Ryan, Susan Sarandon, Naomi Watts and Kate Winslet.

I love Susan Sarandon’s voice.  I’d buy any book just to listen to her.

******

Reviewers make mistakes. We do it all the time. The more books you review, the more mistakes you’ll make.  Harriet Klausner has written in one a gem for Meljean Brook’s Heart of Steel:

Mercenary Lady Corsair airship Captain Yasmeen leads her crew to Fladstrand, Denmark. Their arrival frightens much of the townsfolk as the lady Corsair has a merciless reputation. She is here to meet with author Zenobia Fox to inform her she killed her brother treasure hunter Archimedes Fox by dumping him into a Venice canal amidst zombies for his concealing who his late sire was.

…..

The latest Iron Seas steampunk thriller (see The Iron Duke) is a great tale starring two fascinating protagonists in what may be the strangest courtship in years. The story line is filled with action as the Heart of Steel and the roguish treasure hunter make for an endearing couple. Fans who relish something different in their novels will want to read Meljean Brooks’ Yasmeen and Zenobia’s excellent adventure.

No, readers, the romance is not between Yasmeen and Zenobia.