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Bitter Angels Mass Market Paperback – August 25, 2009

4.0 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“Bitter Angels is a great edge-of-the-seat interstellar intrigue and a riveting space opera—espionage hybrid with a shattering denouement. This one was tough to put down.”—David J. Williams, author of The Burning Skies

About the Author

C.L. Anderson has been known to tell people she lives in a stately Victorian home on a windswept island in Lake Superior with her three sisters and their pet wolf Manfred.  She has also been known to tell people she is a science fiction writer living near Ann Arbor, Michigan with her husband, son and cat.  What is known is that this is her first novel and she’s very much looking forward to many more.
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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine; 1st edition (August 25, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0553592173
  • ISBN-13: 978-0553592177
  • Product Dimensions: 4.1 x 1 x 6.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,550,221 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By mayfayre TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 20, 2009
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Let me damn this first with faint praise: it's not a bad debut novel. Care was taken to create multiple characters, and sufficient world-building was done to give a good context to the story.

The problem I found with this book was that I could find no reason to empathize with most of the characters. This made actually getting into the book slow going. The lead character, Terese, was the worst - I found her unlikable and her motivations illogical. I never truly understood either why she would leave her husband and children after being out of active duty for 30 years (not to mention having left the service due to being held hostage and tortured), and why, at the beginning of the story, she was the ONLY one who could solve the problem. The person ordering her out simply didn't have all the information necessary to come to that conclusion, and the pieces that had to fall into place for her to BECOME that person verged on the ridiculous. Another problem I had with the character was that she never asked the obvious follow-up questions. When told by Siri, with heavy dramatic import, that Terese didn't KNOW what Bianca had done for her, Terese doesn't simply ask, "What?". She also managed to come to correct conclusions without seeming to do any of the investigational footwork necessry to reach those conclusions.

The remaining characters were just as sketchy. Oh, we were eventually told enough to explain their actions, but I never found it enough to vest any emotional interest in them. Amerand just seemed like a cautious guy who kept his head down. Even though we were told of the sacrifices that were made on his behalf, there was an emotional disconnect in the telling. I was never made to really work up any outrage on his behalf.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
"Bitter Angels" by C. L. Anderson (aka Sarah Zettel) doesn't bear up well under close examination. Many of the characters' motivations make no sense. Really basic pieces of information -- like what is this "Pax Solara" thing? -- are left out. The bad guys' nefarious plot turns out to be just as crazy and as house-of-cards fragile as something Dr. Evil might have come up with on one of his off days.

And yet, most of these problems emerge only in retrospect. While reading "Bitter Angels", readers are more likely to focus on its strengths. Field Commander Terese Drajeske is a sympathetic character, a woman of conviction who, despite lingering psychological wounds and dogged resistance from her family, feels compelled to honor a debt to Bianca Fayette, a former mentor who long ago saved Terese's life. Terese is determined to learn how Bianca died and, more important to her superiors, ascertain whether the nasty and brutish ruling oligarchy of the Erasmus system (a set of moons and habitats orbiting a distant sun) is planning to declare war on earth. Anderson/Zettel is sufficiently adept at building tension, supplying a sense of foreboding, and applying foreshadowing to draw the reader in.

The novel does pose a Big Question: What should we do to help the victims of tyranny? Earth is prosperous and powerful, while the vast majority of Erasmans live in poverty and misery, their every move and utterance watched by human Clerks or inhuman machines. The Pax Solara has sent "saints" to do charitable work (apparently limited to medical services and soup kitchens) and Guardians to monitor the political situation, but little more. Bianca, it seems, decided this wasn't enough. Was she right?
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Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
Terese Drajeske, a former guardian of the saints, is called back to active duty. The saints do good works on the planets comprising the United World Government. The guardians endeavor to keep the peace without killing anyone (usually by gluing people to walls). Drajeske goes to the Erasmus System to circumvent an attack upon certain of its planets. She brings along Siri (who hooks into a communications network) and Vijay, who works undercover. Other principles are a cop on Erasmus, Amerand, who is working to find his enslaved mother (he arranged for his enslaved father to work for him), and a doctor, Emiliya.

Bitter Angels tells its story from shifting points of view. That technique can be difficult to execute but Anderson handled it nicely, merging the different perspectives into a seamless storyline. The concept of a guardian force that keeps peace without killing is a nice departure from plots that rely on violence as for an easy (if unimaginative) injection of excitement. The twisty plot, while a bit Byzantine, builds suspense with a mix of political intrigue and fast action.

Terese is a fully developed example of the reluctant hero--and for that reason is a more interesting character than is standard fare in fast-action sf novels. If C.L. Anderson (the pen name of Sara Zettel) writes a sequel to Bitter Angels, I'll buy it.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
[Disclaimer: I received this book for a twitter RT contest run by the publisher. There was no expectation of any kind associated with it.]

Bitter Angels is based on an interesting twist: What if an entire society was based around keeping the peace? Not through oppression, not through violence (or at least, lethal violence), but through a combination of technology, diplomacy, and sheer dedication. What would that society look like?

It's an intriguing twist to a sci-fi spy novel, and it works rather well. The plot is complex and multilayered, but Anderson takes care to make sure we're no more confused than her protagonist Terese. Characters speak and think differently and are well differentiated. Things that first appear as tropes or sloppy thinking reveal themselves to be anything but, as the story really rollercoasters its way to a satisfying finish.

The one annoyance I had with the novel directly grew out of its strengths. In the first hundred pages, Anderson makes sure that we know the background and history of both the complex world and the complex characters. For someone extremely familiar with sfnal works, those chunks seem a little like overexplaining.

At the same time, those expositional passages would work wonderfully for someone who was just starting to get into science fiction - especially given Anderson's strong portrayal of both male and female characters as equals. Lord knows I've confused members of my writing group before with allusions to sf standards they've never heard before.

So if you're new to sf, this book is friendly to you. And if you're not new to sf, the exposition isn't particularly onerous - and it disappears entirely once Anderson's set the world up around you (about 50-odd pages in). The rest of the book definitely makes it worth it.
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