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Biased and superficial Science Fiction reviews

       
VANESSA

Copyright 2001 by David L. Howells

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SOJALS rating:     
one SOJALS point no SOJALS point no SOJALS point no SOJALS point no SOJALS point    Mediocre (1/5)

I first read this on the 17th April 2002.

After her husband's death, life wasn't so easy for Rachel Hawthorn. She had a young son, Alex, to bring up. At the time it seemed sheer good fortune that a generous benefactor was willing to grant a college scholarship for her son. Now however, Alex has reached his 21st birthday, and the benefactor will reveal himself and what he wants from Alex.

Alex is a bright and level-headed young man, but this long-kept secret will turn his world upside-down and stretch his credulity to breaking-point.

Down in Georgia, the ghosts of the American Civil War still relive their battles and deaths, tied to this earthly realm by malevolent forces, unable to escape, locked in an endless repetition.

And the ghost Vanessa, struggling to remember who she was and why she remains on this earth, will strive (in her inimitable fashion), to free other ghosts stranded, in thrall to their mortal deaths.

This is a very odd book. It's primarily a ghost story, but with a sufficient dash of science fiction to allow me to review it on SF Reviews. Alex's initiation reminds me of a comic book plot (and as a long time admirer of Marvel Comics, this was something I rather enjoyed).

We're also dealing with some very competent, intelligent and charismatic characters and as such they remarkably recall Heinlein's eponymous heroes with Ryan Fitzgalen as Lazarus Long. Just as Heinlein's heroes have their occasional idiosyncrasy (e.g. Johann and cosmetics in "I Will Fear No Evil"), so to do Lowell's characters. Specifically, the group urge to - in what I can only assume is some form of mass hysteria - burst into tears whenever the wind changes. This may be a uniquely American attribute - as an Englishman I learned rapidly that were I to so much as let a little teardrop shake on my eyelash, I'd be beaten around the head with a chair and kicked out the of the house, if we'd had a house, and indeed a chair, and if anyone could have been bothered. Well, there are liberal quantities of tears in this book, indeed there are buckets of the damn things.

Dragging myself back to the subject of this being a odd book, indeed, the language and the writing style are also rather unusual - with some surprising idioms and an odd use of speech where I'd expect narrative.

So what did I think of this book? Well, once I got used to the writing style I quite enjoyed the plot. There's humour, morality and human warmth in there along with some excitement. But, remember, it's a ghost story and barely classifiable as SF.

Loaded on the 2nd June 2002.
    
Cover of VANESSA