Finished Stephen Leigh
's Dark Water's Embrace
, a former Phoenix Press Free eBook of the Month giveaway, and Speaking Stones
, the sequel which I bought during their April sale.
The blurb on this one compares it to Ursula K. Le Guin
's The Left Hand of Darkness
for its gender role exploration, and the author's webpage
says it won a Spectrum Award, as well as nods from Locus and the James Tiptree Awards.
But really I got more of a sense of Always Coming Home
(my personal favourite Le Guin work) for the world-building, which was fleshed out with "in character (in culture?)" poems and myths which punctuated the regular text, as well as a number of lavish appendices that explained the stuff which would have been clunky to put in the story itself. I'm a sucker for this kind of thing, which nets the books which do it bonus points.
Both books were a sort of sf with a touch of mystery/suspense, centered around cultural change issues and social tensions, as well as each "solving" the case of how a particular corpse came to be very, very dead in ways that illustrate said change and tensions.
The sfnal premise of this is one of those inadvertenly stranded colony missions who have to adapt to a hostile world or die. This world seems to be actively out to get them, with a very high rate of mutation affecting the population, which adapts to try and increase their viability and ironically, has become set in their ways to preserve the new societal structure.
First book deals with an alien archaeological discovery which might have bearing on altering the population's chances for the better, if only they would accept it; second book follows some generations after and deals with the fallout of integrating the discoveries made in the first book.
Medium-high recommend for people who like medium-hard sf with exploration of forced societal change due to inescapable circumstances, especially with regard to gender and race roles and "out-group" treatment in tightly knit communities, and lovingly detailed world-building supplements. It's a bit of an idiosyncratic novel, stylistically speaking, and the mix of 3rd person observation, 1st person direct narration, and journal entries/cultural artifacts might take some getting used to.
My amortized cost for both books between the freebie and the sale is probably around $3.25 CAD. It turned out to be money well spent, and I'll have to keep an eye out for the author's other e-books, since it looks like he sells his self-repubs DRM-free. Hopefully they'll turn up at Kobo and be couponable.