- Hardcover: 446 pages
- Publisher: Tor Books; 1st edition (June 1996)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0312859058
- ISBN-13: 978-0312859053
- Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6.5 x 9.8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 65 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,199,819 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Fall of Angels Hardcover – June, 1996
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From Publishers Weekly
The Gods themselves do battle in this prequel to Modesitt's popular Recluse saga. Set centuries before last year's The Death of Chaos, the story recounts a space battle in which the frigate Winterlance is blown into another universe and makes an emergency landing on a habitable planet. The castaways, mostly female space marines, initially must struggle with the harsh weather and their own failing technology in order to survive. Soon, however, they discover that they share their new world with a more intelligent enemy: other humans. The natives, whose culture is intensely patriarchal, have magical powers and are extremely hostile, especially to independent women. As Ryba and Nylan, the Winterlance's former chief officers, struggle to create both a civilization and a means to defend it, they must fight increasingly difficult battles even while coming to terms with their own awakening magical powers. Modesitt's character development is solid, and the novel makes intriguing use of technology in a fantasy setting, but the plot is predictable and the language pedestrian. A seemingly superfluous subplot concerning the chief villain's home life fails to add excitement. Fans of the series should enjoy this sixth entry, particularly for its explication of the myths and legends of latter-day Recluse, but it's not the sort of volume likely to win Modesitt a new legion of admirers.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
The latest novel in Modesitt's Recluce series is one of the best and most accessible for readers new to the saga. It casts back in time to the founding of one of the well-established cultures of Recluce, the women warriors of Westwind. The Westwind women sprang from the mostly female crew of a crashed starship who then faced a classic situation, that of exiles from a technological culture on a pretechnological planet that holds more than a few surprises for them. Modesitt manages this version of that predicament quite well, infusing it with more action than is in most of the other Recluce yarns, as well as with a certain amount of preaching on the utility of violence. The resulting tale will hold existing series fans and probably recruit some new ones. Roland Green
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At the outset of the tale, we meet a crew that by happenstance, is made up of women, with only three male crew members. Nylan is the ships engineer, and, as are all the officers, he is connected into the ships neuronet, the mental command center that completely controls the ship and its environment. Ryba is the ship's captain, and while she and Nylan have a sexual relationship, there is no doubt that she is in command. I didn't say romantic, because though they sleep together and care for each other, there is no romance involved. As a result of a great battle, they are thrown into an alternate universe, above a strange planet. With no way to return, they are forced to land.
They are "angels," humans from the various cold planets of Heaven. Most are from Sybra, the coldest planet, but a few are from Svenn, a warmer planet. Nylan is half-Svenn. The Sybrans cannot take the heat of their new world and are pretty much trapped in the cool mountains. Unfortunately the first thing that happens is they have landed on a world previously colonized. It probably happened in the same way, but by the Rationalists of the warmer worlds of Hell, those humans called 'demons' with whom they have been at war with for thousands of years. The lord of the land immediately attacks them, and the conflict is on.
This tale takes the concepts of traditional gender roles and twists them inside out. If she hadn't been thrown out of her universe, Ryba would never have had the chance to rise any higher than she already had, as women are considered technically equal, but there is a glass ceiling most women can't break through. In their new world, she makes sure the three men know they are now the ones with lesser stature, coldly telling Gerlich, "I could amputate both your arms and you would still retain your stud value." She is determined to build a culture where women have all the power and men are simply a means to reproduction. She is deadly, calculating, and will ruthlessly use anyone to achieve her goal.
Nylan is a strong man but he is not a leader, and feels like he has no other options, other than to march along with plans Ryba sets down for them. Using their failing technology he forges the weapons and builds their tower so they can survive the first winter in their mountain home. As events unfold and his relationship with Ryba disintegrates, he is confused and unsure of what to do. He is a man with a temperate mind, believing in equality with neither sex having the upper hand. A few of the women feel the same way he does.
This age old conflict makes for an awesome tale. Each character is sharply drawn, and the contrasts in their philosophies and the way they relate to each other drives this to a dramatic finish. I have read this entire series several times, and absolutely love it. In my opinion, this is one of Modesitt's better tales.
Something I have noticed and hasn't really been commented on is how The Recluce series qualifies more as science fiction than it does fantasy. I think that may be due to the fact that it uses a "medieval society" like is normally found in fantasy. Since the definition of science is "magic rationalized," then Recluce qualifies as sci-fi. Every act of "magic" is rationally explained in a sci-fi manner. No "Gods, spirits, fairies, sprites, djinn, leprechauns, unicorns, dragons, elementals, etc." are anywhere to be found. In fact, all of the "magic" of Recluce can be explained by the "balance." (Which I fancy to understand a bit.... maybe) And, if you look critically at the concept of the "balance," then it can be perceived as a poorly understood resource of the world of Recluce.
Interestingly, the same can be said of the excellent job Anne McCaffrey did with the "Dragonrider's of Pern" series. Even though it is claimed by the "fantasy" genre, it's still good sci-fi and can even wear the "hard sci-fi" hat pretty well. (At least, the Chalker definition of it. "I do write hard science fiction books. I just don't write engineering stories." Jack Chalker.) Which brings me to the point that, if you use the same "Chalker yardstick," then the Recluce saga is "hard sci-fi" as well!!!!
One last thought before ya check out the other folk's reviews: I'm of the opinion that the "out of order" sequence that Modesitt employs in writing this series was a great idea. Part of the draw for me was this whole new world with these kind of odd things happening in it and you were just supposed to accept the "this is how it is" way it was handled. Yeah, it was kind of maddening at first. (And frankly, still is a little.) But, I'm happy with it and still looking forward to finding out more of how the Rationalist Stars folks originally found and inhabited the world that Recluce is set in.