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Hellspark Paperback – January 2, 1998


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Meisha Merlin Publishing Inc.; 1 edition (January 2, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0965834522
  • ISBN-13: 978-0965834520
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 5.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #630,107 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"A wealth of unique imagery and rich characterization makes Hellspark a thoroughly satisfying book." -- Lawrence Watt-Evans

"Hellspark has some really fascinating settings, a familiar but well constructed plot, and good action scenes." -- S.F. Chronicle

"Janet Kagan writes terrific science fiction. Imaginative and insightful with characters you really care about." -- A. C. Crispin

"Kagan does have a dry and effective sense of humor, of the sort that I enjoy in Steven Brust's books." -- Amazing Stories

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Customer Reviews

Wonderful stories, wonderful work!
Andrew J. Buehler
I first read this book as a teenager and have since read it a few more times.
Khita
I am hoping to be a writer like you someday.
Agunow@aol.com, Genna Gunow

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Kirsten A. Edwards on February 17, 2000
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
It is one of the pleasurable paradoxes of HELLSPARK that the protagonist Tocohl Sosumo's ability to get inside every human (and alien) culture also makes her the ultimate outsider. Hellsparks, the race of traders, diplomats, judges and free-wheeling adventurers from which the title is taken, want to communicate with everybody, no matter what it costs. They usually succeed, and always pay the price. Most teens I know empathize with the desirability of being part of an "in" group and the pains of having to stand outside. The teens with whom I've shared this book are no exception. HELLSPARK resonates with their experience. The characters, especially Tocohl, play with every gradation of belonging. Janet Kagan deftly mixes a fast-paced mystery, exotic, unique and alien cultures, and the fundamentally human question of where and how people fit together. It's well-nigh irresistable. But perhaps best of all is Kagan's authorial voice. Pure and simple, she's fun to read. Even her Star Trek novel (UHURA'S SONG) a type of book (media tie-in) for which I often have little patience, was a treat! Don't miss this one. (This review was excerpted and expanded from my review in The WASHrag, a review journal for Western Washington young adult services' librarians).
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By "kangarex" on June 27, 2002
Format: Paperback
Hellspark is quite possibly my single favorite book - and I read an awful lot of books. All of Janet Kagan's books are wonderful, and my only gripe with her as an author is that she's only written three so far (Please Ma'am can I have some more?) Hellspark is a fascinating first contact book, with a crystal clear look at how our culture informs our assumptions, and the huge messes those assumptions can cause. Tocohl Susumo (our Hellspark protagonist) is wonderful as the only good cultural interpreter in a mass of surveyors from vastly different worlds, Maggy, her computer is a delightful mix of rapid thinking and small-child personality, and her aliens (the Sprookje) are truly alien without being unbelievable or trite. If you've already read this one, go on and try Mirabile and Uhura's Song, which are also wonderful reads.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Barb Caffrey VINE VOICE on August 8, 2003
Format: Paperback
"Hellspark," by Janet Kagan, is a flat out readable book. It gets everything right, from the science to the psychology to the anthropology -- everything works.
The plot is somewhat difficult to describe. Tocohl Susumo is a ship captain, trader, and bon vivant; her sentient computer Margaret, Lord Lynn is her sole companion.
At the Festival of Saint Veschke on the world of Sheveschkem, Tocohl finds danger, mystery, intrigue . . . and maybe even a hint of scandal. She goes to Lassti to find out whether or not a new race of beings, the sprookjes, are sentient -- or aren't.
There's a whole lot more to it; it's a comedy of manners, a comedy of language, and a hint of romance among Tocohl and Om Im Chadeayne helps to spice the mix. (The romance between Alfvaen and swift-Kalat does even more along these lines.)
I wish I knew how to describe this book better. All I can say is that I enjoy it for the language, the sense of humor, the mystery, the intrigue, the conflict, and everything else besides.
Five stars plus, recommended.
Oh yeah, and if you like this, you'll probably like the other couple of books Ms. Kagan has written -- "Mirabile" and "Uhura's Song" -- as well as works by Steve Miller and Sharon Lee, Lois Bujold, and possibly David Weber.
Barb Caffrey
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 14, 1999
Format: Paperback
HELLSPARK is a wonderful detective tale that stays true to the detective tradition without letting the Science Fiction setting intrude. A death has occurred on the planet Lasti, or was it murder? Enter Tocohl a Ship's Captain, trader, and native Hell-spark/Hells-park, who has to determine if the death was a murder, and, if so, was it done by the natives, the Sprookjes, who seem to be intelligent & sapient, but have no language.
Tocohl has to walk a thin line, because if the Sprookjes are intelligent, then the people who want the planet for development will lose it. Tocohl is asked to be a by-world judge, and determine if it was murder, and it the Sprookjes are intelligent.
Kagan's HELLSPARK is also a comedy of manners, in which the cultural mores and taboos of several various and diverging cultures are thrown into conflict and confusion. I found Kagan's setting to be wonderful and thrilling, and well worth the reading. I am truly indebted to author Steve Miller for suggesting the book to me, and introducing me to such a captivating author. I had previously only read one book by Kagan, but have determined to find more of her works.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 14, 1999
Format: Paperback
HELLSPARK is a wonderful prism of shifting words and situations. As in many novels (such as the _Starbridge_ series) the plot is familiar: representatives of a myriad of cultures are brought as a survey team to document a newly discovered planet. A poorly matched team finds itself in the position of having to judge the sapience of another race. The premise of HELLSPARK is the mysterious death of an exploration team physicist during the survey of a new planet, and the need to determine what (or who?) caused his death.
Honestly, the plot is not the important part of the book. Where Ms. Kagan excells is bringing her audience into the world and into the perspective of the main character. We, as readers, are brought up short by our own cultural preconceptions and wrapped into the shifting sands of political politeness conflicting with truth both said and unsaid.
This book came to me by way of the authors Lee and Miller, and I must credit them with a good sense of what I would enjoy. I found the heart of HELLSPARK to be a complex portrait of cultural communication and the limits of going "by the book," which are strong enough topics to support multiple readings. When HELLSPARK arrived, I was too busy to read it and buried it under my mail. A thousand pardons are winging their way back to Ms. Kagan as I type. I *so* regret waiting to read it that I plan to promptly share it out.
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