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Bitter Angels Mass Market Paperback – August 25, 2009
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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.Read more ›
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?Read more ›
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.
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This was a surprising novel despite many similarities to the standard space opera trope. A pleasure to read with characters I cared for and by the end I wanted more of them. Read morePublished 6 months ago by Ken Arenson
Wow! Best Sci Fi book I have read in a long time. I can't believe this is a first book. I will definitely be watching for additional books by this author.Published on July 26, 2014 by M. Hoppe
I really love the whole book. It was a quick fun interesting read. I liked all the characters. I would reccomend this book to friends who like science fiction.Published on November 6, 2013 by Amazon Customer
I really enjoyed the twists in the plot of this scifi noir thriller. I found the characters, especially the protagonist, well drawn and sympathetic. Read morePublished on January 2, 2013 by Deidre Leigh Miller
There were the bones of a reasonably good space opera here. Sadly, the author breathlessly throws in every snippet of an idea she ever had for character or scene development and... Read morePublished on December 15, 2010 by Whale Chowder
If you like the intrigues of politics combined with future of biology that have been the territory of CJ Cherryh for the last few decades, you'll enjoy this book.Published on September 21, 2010 by Christopher Allen