Tuesday, March 10, 2015

The Sky Suspended, by Laura Montgomery

I realized as I was waiting for this review to post on Amazon that if they mess up, I have to re-write the review. Maybe I'll publish it on here, first.

5.0 out of 5 stars
Tasty, filling, and packed fully of yummy nuggets!
March 10, 2015
By Pat Patterson (Woodstock, Georgia, USA)
This review is from: The Sky Suspended (Kindle Edition)

I've tried to come up with something to compare this book to, but all I get is 'fruitcake' and I am NOT going to go with fruitcake. I don't LIKE fruitcake, and I like this book.
If my big fat Manx cat SugarBelly will cooperate by staying off my left hand and not playing with the touchpad, I will explain the comparison. MOVE, SUGARBELLY! There, that's better.
You will find many little 'stop and look at me' moments, particularly in the beginning, that you probably are going to want to read the book a second time, just to appreciate the descriptions. For example, the book opens with the chase of a young man on the Washington Mall by two mounted police. The second policeman is described as 'a piebald on a piebald.' What? Does the second cop have some awful skin disease that is described rudely? Well, no. As we continue the read, we discover that genetic engineering is in common use, and that one of the options parents are choosing is for their children to have wildly colored skin. And that there has arisen a Department of Souls, to enforce regulations limiting the modifications to non-brain involvement. It is Washington, after all, and bureaucracy thrives in that environment.
The first Laura Montgomery book I read was 'Manx Prize,' and throughout I thought, this book was written by an engineer. Well, I was wrong, and if I had read this book first, I would have guessed correctly: this book is written by a lawyer. That presents us with many of the 'stop-and-look' moments (let's call them nuggets), because in the midst of a crowd event ( a spontaneous line forming), two main characters start talking about legal issues. It's funny enough to me, a non-lawyer type, but it's probably a great yock to lawyers, and it has the look of being fun to write.
When I first started reading Larry Niven in 1978, I was hooked immediately. He says that one of his techniques is to imagine 'ONE' technological change (for example, the transfer booth) and then extrapolate from there to write about the way it will impact society. You can find evidence of this approach (which is an EXCELLENT approach) in the way Laura writes about gene engineering. Not only do we have the Department of Souls, we have the case of Molly, a woman who was selected by her parents for longevity treatments. As an unintended consequence of the treatment, she has the appearance of a 12 year old girl. So, despite her brilliance and academic achievements, she can't get hired as a lawyer, and works as a reporter until such time as puberty hits.
Now, about that line: They have lined up for non-existent lottery tickets to select people to go on the next inter-stellar voyage. The first interstellar voyage is returning, and for me that presented a mystery I wanted SOLVED! I absolutely get that it was going to take months before ship arrived on earth, but I was willing to wait those months. Alas and alack.
Instead, there was a deeper mystery, which is : why has there been only one ship? Why isn't another ship being built RIGHT NOW? And there we have the central issue. And, as is appropriate for a lawyer-written book, the solution comes from the legal process. Watching the lawyers work through their various ethical dilemmas in order to solve the 'real' problem, as opposed to the client's problem, is rather fascinating. It's as if they have to out-think themselves in order to come to a result they can live with.
I have to make a comment about the cover art, which is beautiful. It's from a photograph taken by the author of her son from the Lincoln Memorial. It was set in it's final form by Phil Smith , who has also done covers for her other works.
Any incoherency in this review should not be attributed to Laura's work, but rather to the fact that my fat Manx cat SugarBelly would NOT leave me alone. She demanded to know why this book did't have Manx in the title, and when I told her it wasn't all about her, she turned her cat eyes on me and clearly told me I was speaking nonsense.

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