Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Forge, by T K Anthony

Teresa K Anthony, and her publisher Decadent, were kind enough to provide me a copy of her book to review. Let's get this point out of the way: I'd give this a 5 star rating on Amazon. Her work earned it. A very brief synopsis: The civilization is composed of three different intelligent races, living together in mixed communities. Advanced technology is available, but the price is high enough that muscle power is a significant contributor, and so in certain areas, slavery is economically viable. A small number of individuals also possess the ability to sense and manipulate matter and energy beyond the five senses; these people are accorded higher prestige, based on their abilities. In the past, the three races have actively cooperated with each other, but for unknown reasons, hostility has emerged, and characters of influence try to determine the reason for the change. Eventually, a fourth race is discovered, which is intent on dividing and conquering. The beauty of this work is the author's amazing gift for characters. Let me take as an example the MINOR character Sarvy Paggett. With an incredible economy of words she paints us a deep and sympathetic picture of her, beginning with the delicious meal she prepared (although the appearance mislead Col, a central character); dropping in the mention that the blanket used by the slave Tazhret "Sarvy had snuck past her mate." SIX WORDS! A world of description in those six words! Then, using Tazhret's POV, she mentions the covert feeding Sarvy had provided, and her strategy of killing her wicked husband Zinderz by making him excellent home brew. She is transformed in those few words from an anonymous alien being with gills to a person we care about, because even though she faces a life married to a brute, she has not allowed herself to become brutalized. That theme is consistent throughout the book: characters are heroes not because they have great super powers, but because they do not allow evil to triumph over them; they knowingly sacrifice themselves because of their love. Even though it isn't the super powers that makes the characters, I LOVE the super powers! They are powerful enough to be stupendous, but they aren't so powerful that the story becomes impossible. I also like them because it allows you to postulate a society which has both primitive and technologically advanced elements, and that makes for a great story. I also like the fact that the plot works. I don't know why ALL book plots don't work, but sometimes they don't, and we get stuck with thoughts like : "WAIT! You are telling me that a SINGLE papyrus, with NO authentication, NO references in contemporary literature, just shows up in the rubble, and is at once absolutely accepted by every relevant authority as completely authentic? BULL!" Now, I get it why movies have holes in them, because there are so many fingers in the pie. When I was 13, I went to see "Fantastic Voyage," in which a sub with a crew is shrunk and injected into the body of a man to perform surgery. They have to get it done in an hour, though, because then they return to normal size. Blah blah blah, Raquel Welch gets groped, blah blah blah, the sub is crushed but the good guys escape through the patients tear duct. BUT THEY LEAVE THE SUB BEHIND. And don't mention it again. BTW, Isaac Asimov fixed that in the book based on the movie. Anyway, your plot works. And that's why you get five stars.