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4.1 out of 5 stars
Heart of Gold: A Novel
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on June 2, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Sharon Shinn is an excellent writer, and as such her novels are always really good reads. However, after reading the lyrical beauty of 'The Shape-Changer's Wife' and the absolute brilliance that is her 'Samaria Trilogy' ('Archangel', 'Jovah's Angel', and 'The Alleluia Files'), 'Heart of Gold' simply pales. I enjoyed reading it, but unlike the books I list above, I know I'll never re-read it.
The characters were interesting, and the racial prejudice of the indigo and gulden peoples well realized. I felt like I was reading a spy thriller or novel of intrigue, though, more than I was reading a Shinn novel. The love story seems very forced and almost tacked on. The ending of the novel just fizzles out. And it seems that Nolan and Kit, while destroying their reputations within indigo society to help the guldens, gain little personally. They help the races co-exist, preventing genocide along the way, but fail to be accepted by either society. Ultimately, what 'saves' them is the fact that Kit is highly ranked within the indigo society that she despises, and that despises her. There are no easy answers.
And just *why* Nolan falls in love with Kit isn't clear - it seems a case of pure infatuation. And why would someone as intelligent as Kit fall for the machinations of a controlling personality like Jex? He was cruel, and bigoted, and Kit followed him blindly. Why? I didn't buy it throughout the novel. I wanted to just shake her for being such an idiot!
Like eagalewski and 'a reader from Cleveland' I found this book to not be Sharon Shinn's best by any means. If it was written by another author I'd probably give it four stars, but since I know what Shinn is capable of, only three. It, sadly, does not live up to her potential. Go read 'The Samaria Trilogy' to see a better treatment of a similar theme.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on August 24, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
It has been a while that I have read a book so captivating that I lost track of time while reading it. That having been said, Heart of Gold relates the story of two people discovering their independence in a world of very strict social hierarchy. Shinn offers interesting insights into the nurture vs. nature debate, and comes down very heavily on the nurture side of the argument. In the worlds of indigo and gulden -- the two main races in Heart of Gold -- your rearing defines your world. Only, both the main characters, as well as others, show how independence and strong characters are maintained even so. Heart of Gold takes a strong look at how society defines individual roles, and how individuals can become iconoclastic despite their society.
On another level, Heart of Gold explores biological warfare, and its underlying prejudices. It is a thoughtful indictment of extreme warfare in our post Cold War society -- and offered through the lens of a society that is just entering a political Cold War. Heart of Gold may be science fiction, but the issues it addresses are ones faced in our every day world.
On yet another level, this is a story of two people falling into love truly, madly, deeply. This is NOT a romance, but a true look at how emotions become involved, and how hard decisions have to made anyway. The heroes and "lovers" of the story are stronger because they have these emotions despite and including their worlds collapsing around them.
All in all, this is one of the best books I have read in years. I recommend it highly to anyone who likes thoughtful, social science fiction. This isn't about computers, robots, elves or dragons (all of which I can enjoy in there own right), but about interesting social interactions -- and how much we tend to take for granted about our own places in society. Read it -- it'll be fun and good for you.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on June 9, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Sharon Shinn has produced another first rate, character driven science fiction novel in Heart of Gold. Her carefully constructed races of matriarchal blueskins and macho gulden give her the opportunity to explore prejudice from many angles.
But for me, it's the characters that make a story worth reading, and Shinn never disappoints. Kit, with her aristocratic indigo heritage and gulden upbringing, is a rebellious, rather tragic figure, but it is Nolan that really captures the story. A quiet researcher who'd been resigned to his future as a non-essential spouse, he attains true heroism through his compassion and commitment to doing the right thing, no matter what the cost to himself. Shinn makes all of the relationships convincing, and her secondary characters are vivid and contribute greatly to the story. A great read for anyone who likes their science fiction about people and society rather than hardware. (And romance readers might enjoy it also.)
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This semi-fantasy novel has a lot of lofty ambition. Unfortunately, it falls short of just about every goal it sets for itself, save only as a good story. If it didn't try so darn hard, you wouldn't even notice its shortcomings, however, like the novels of Sheri Tepper, you can't separate this book from it socio-political preaching.
Race and gender are the two big hot-buttons here, with bio-warfare and terrorism as sidekicks, as Shinn gives us a dualistic world where the two major races are the matriarchal indigo and the second-class patriarchal gulden. The indigo are basically Victorian England with a gender reversal, while the gulden seemed to represent (despite the more obvious racial parallel to blacks) a sort of Arab-Muslim society that we're not supposed to approve of. (This comparison is only more striking since there's a land struggle that parallels the Isreali-Palestinian conflict, with the gulden participating in the more conventional bombing-style terrorism.) Despite the fact that this books is about a "forbidden love" and "two races", both protaganists are indigo - one, a male scientist starting to squirm at the thought of marrying his rich fiancee and giving up his career to become a good househusband, the other, a high-caste heiress who's spent most of her childhood among the gulden and who is the lover of the gulden's most notorious terrorist/hero. When Nolan, the scientist, uncovers a plot against the gulden, he kidnaps Kit, the heiress, and uses her to get into gulden society so he can warn them.
Aww, how altruistic. I can't even count the number of times Nolan "stubbornly" asserts, "It's the right thing to do," when both gulden and indigo alike stare in disbelief and say, "I wouldn't have done it." Neither side of this conflict comes out particularly attractive: the gulden are ruthless and opportunistic, the indigo are condescending snobs.
And what the heck is the point of giving us a matriarchal society when you don't do anything with it? OK, I can accept not wanting to just give us the "women in charge would mean Utopia" line. But you'd think that it would mean a few differences. Instead, again, the indigo are nothing more than the Victorians. Worse, the women in power manage to combine the worst aspects of both men and women of that era - patronizing, scheming, and class-obsessed, but also flighty, shallow, and more concerned with social events than politics.
The main trouble with this book remains that it tries to be too many things and ends up not being enough of any of them. A good story, marred by boring characters, an unconvincing romance, and a hard-to-swallow premise.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on May 18, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
If you are going to read one Sharon Shinn novel, please don't let it be this one.
Shinn hit three homeruns with her Samaria trilogy. In comparison, Heart of Gold seems suspiciously simplistic. She writes about racism and sexism without adding anything new to the conversation -- one just feels lectured to.
Indeed, to me, it seems almost as if the publisher approached her after The Alleluia Files and asked if there was anything hiding away under her bed, any old work that she could possibly dust off for them to print.
It is a perfectly good book. However, it is nowhere near the mastery Shinn demonstrates elsewhere.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Format: Mass Market PaperbackVerified Purchase
An extremely absorbing book that pits two very different societies against each other, and focuses on the dichotomy between
living a life laid down by one's culture versus choosing to be free and having to find one's own perilous way. There are wonderful characters here, not only the main ones, Nolan and Kitrini, but Pakt, Chay, Melini, and many others, somehow rendered
interesting and real. I'd love to see a movie: whom shall we cast? I read this in two days, and hardly minded my cold. I don't usually review books that already have a number of reviews saying roughly the same thing I want to say, but this time I just had to. I need to give it more than 5 stars.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on August 25, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Shin has yet to disappoint me with a book. They are all worth the read (and the price) even if Wrapt in Crystal and Heart of Gold lean away from the beautiful ethereal style of the Archangel trilogy and the simplicity of Shapechangers Wife.
This book, in particular, is Shin's foray into feminist SFF. She's not just writing to write, she's writing to discuss feminist issues. Issues of power, violence and gender roles.
A good read, but hard to get into. :)
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format: Mass Market PaperbackVerified Purchase
I was fairly surprised by "Heart of Gold" for a number of reasons. For one thing, I had been informed by another review that it was a Romeo and Juliet story-which is incorrect.

Our story takes place on a continent on which three separate races reside. There are the Indigo, the most powerful and populous race. The Indigo are a matriarchal society who live mostly in what they call "in-country" and yes, they are actually blue. Men are subjugated, though not to a terrible degree, but a working man is unusual.

Then there are the Gulden. The Gulden have been forced by the Indigo to the western most edge of the continent. They are an extremely patriarchal society in which honor killings are acceptable and you are not considered human until you're 12 years old. And yes, they're actually gold.

Then there are the albinos, who don't have anything to do with the story.

Anyway, the Gulden and Indigo have major conflict because of the expansion and colonialism of the Indigo people. To combat this, the gulden have started terrorist attacks in the city (supposedly the only city there is, no map is provided.) One of our main characters, Kit, is the daughter and granddaughter of two gulden anthropologists and the lover of the main gulden terrorist, who is the son of the king. She doesn't approve, but hey, she's in love.

And then there's Nolan, an indigo biotech worker who discovers drugs to combat gulden diseases. He's slated to marry an indigo heiress, move back "in-country" and spend the rest of his life being a husband and father. And then he learns something he really shouldn't know......

These two strangers are forced together by circumstance to try, if they can, to keep the two cultures from exploding into an all out race war.

It's not a bad book; in fact "Heart of Gold" is pretty intriguing. But the ending is just, well.....there should have been another hundred pages tacked on.

Three stars.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon April 8, 2005
Format: Mass Market Paperback
HEART OF GOLD is Sharon Shinn's very obvious attempt to make socio-political commentary about the racial clashes in our society. However, her book is set on some other world where blue people, "Indigos", are the bigots that hold all the cards, and the "Gulden", yellow-skinned people, are the downtrodden race exploited by them. There are also some Albino people who are only mentioned in passing. On the cover, this is marketed as a love story, so I was eager to read it because I loved her angel books and Jenna Starborn. However, this book started very slowly and I found it very hard to "get into it". It has Shinn's typically thorough character development (perhaps hurt a little bit by preachiness), but I never could make myself believe the love connection between Nolan and Kit.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Well, I love this book!

I must admit Heart of Gold started out a bit slower than I generally like, but as the story unraveled I found myself becoming more and more drawn into it. I read for one day strait to finish the book. I love the ending, 'cause it left me feeling completely satisfied. She wove the love story beautifully, without any unneeded mush.

What can I say, Sharon Shinn is an amazing writer!!
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