reviewed by Jerry Wright
Author: Jim Grimsley
Hardback: May 2004
I first came across Jim Grimsley in the forum at Asimov's ( http://www.asimovs.com/discus). At the time, the regulars were oohing and aahing over a Grimsley story called "Into the Greenwood", which, sadly, I still haven't read. Anyway, the comments, and Jim's occasional appearences in the forum made me look for Grimsley material. So, when I came across The Ordinary, I grabbed it. A brief glimpse at the inside and back cover made the story sound quite interesting. And the blurbs didn't lie.
The story sounded like it might be treading on some ground originally covered by Piers Anthony in his "Apprentice Adept" series, wherein there are two worlds interfaced with each other, one of science and technology, the other of magic. Needless to say, that is the ONLY thing these two books have in common, thank goodness. Mr. Anthony is a workmanlike writer who can churn out series by the score, but every time I read an Anthony book I'm reminded of Robert Browning -- "Oh that a man's reach should exceed his grasp, or what's a Heaven for?" Anthony's books never quite reach the heights he's aiming for. Not true of Grimsley.
I was unaware that Jim Grimsley is an award-winning mainstream novelist and playwright. I was unaware that he is considered one of the better explicators of the "gay experience". And all this is to the good. I read The Ordinary just as a book from an author I'd heard SF fans say things about. The book stands well on its own, even though it takes place in a universe that Grimsley has visited before, that of Kirith Kirin. This book, however, takes place a long time in the future of Kirith Kirin, where a gateway between two universes has appeared -- the Twil Gate. On one side is the Hi-tech space-faring world of Senal, an empire of 30 billion souls engaged in a war against machine intelligences on faraway worlds. On the other side is Irion, a calm, pastoral planet, seemingly caught in a feudal existance with no knowledge of science, and a superstitious belief in Magic.
The gate is used by traders to transfer techological gadgetry and transportation from Senal to Irion in return for food and luxury goods. The Senalese think the gate is the creation of a super-hi-tech civilization using concepts beyond their understanding. The Irionese know that the Gate was created by Irion (formerly known as Jessex) by magic. The story takes place mainly from the viewpoint of Jedda Martele, trader and linguist. Jedda is one of the few who can speak the various languages of Irion with any sort of competency, and so she is co-opted to return to Irion with a group of government people who wish to treat with the Queen of Irion. Needless to say, there are wheels within wheels, nothing is what is seems and Jedda learns and becomes far more than she had ever thought possible.
Grimsley is a very talented author with a flair for constructing detailed "real" worlds, and the ability to write rings around many other authors. His "gay sensibility" is also part of this novel, but as I read, the relationships were never blatant or offensive, even to those who "don't appreciate the gay experience".
Grimsley evidently plans on writing a lot more about Senal and the pocket universe of Irion, and I wish him success and a speedy wordprocessor. Well Done!
--JerryAnd now for something different...
An Exchange Of Hostages by Susan H. Matthews
Avon, 372 pages, $5.99
This is an extremely well written book about a Doctor who is forced to become a torturer by the far-future totalitarian society in which he lives. It is vicious and cruel and nasty, and the protagonist is forced to face the monster within. Very deep psychological writing and sort of a "Stockholm Syndrome" relation with the slaves. Oh. No, not slaves... Bond Involuntaries...
A Campbell award nominee but not for the Squeamish.
Emerald Sea by John Ringo
Baen, 448 pages, $25.00
John Ringo leaves the world of the Posleen and the invasion of Earth to visit a post-human earth that has run into trouble. There is an AI running Earth called "Mother" who doesn't like explosives. Of any sort. The Keepers of the Keys of this world where bodymods were the norm and there was a glut of everything saw the population decrease because things had just gotten too easy, and so half of the Keepers decide that "Things Shall Change".
And change they did. Return with us now to those days of yesteryear in the far future where there be dragons. And Mermaids. And Evil Sorcerors (kindof, following Clarke's dictum...) Emerald Sea is a book of whimsy, and a fascinating twist on all the fantasy tropes laid out in an SF world. This is a sequel to There Will Be Dragons but you need not have read the first book to get a kick out of this one.
I also read Windrider's Oath by David Weber and Masters of Fantasy also from Baen, which book features short stories, for the most part based in the various writer's series works. Andre Norton, Mercedes Lackey, David Weber, David Drake, Elizabeth Moon, Christopher Stasheff, others... Read it. You'll like it.
Copyright © 2004, Jerry Wright and Bewildering Stories