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Biased and superficial Science Fiction reviews

The Kindly Ones

Copyright 1987 by Melissa Scott

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

I first read this on the 10th April 2004.

Orestes and Electra are the two moons of the rather larger planet Agamemnon of the star Atreus. Humans colonized these moons and the resultant political structure is one of several feudal kingdoms with blood lines descending from the original crew members. Orestes is the more developed, and warmer, though still cold. Citizens in the society obey a rigid code of honour and to break it means death. However in more modern times, this 'death' does not mean loss of physical life, but a total ostracism from normal society. Citizens of the society must pretend that such code-breakers do not exist, that they are imperceptible to all the senses.

However, there is a protocol by which the two communities may communicate: an official medium is allowed to act as go-between. Trey Maturin is such a medium, working for the Halex queendom.

Under the influence of the evil Halfrid of the Brandr domain, the code of honour is being twisted to achieve his personal aims and war results between Brandr and Halex.

Trey Maturin, her friends and the live and dead of all the houses will be caught in this brutal war.

Melissa Scott tells the story from various viewpoints, that of Maturin the medium, ex-peacekeeper Moraghan, pilot Guil Ex-tan'ne and others. However, I noticed no real differentiation in these voices. I also couldn't keep straight which characters were women and which were men (and I attribute that to the writing of course). In some ways of course this latter point is rather good - it avoids preconceptions and counters prejudices, however in the context of this society I found it unconvincing. Oh bugger, I've just realised this gender obscurity may be deliberate, in which case, jolly well done. Well, my characteristic deep analysis has clearly paid off.

But still, this novel was disappointing, especially since I so enjoyed "Five Twelfths Of Heaven". The first half of the book was great, chock full of Japanese influences with strict codes of honour, outcasts and entertainment zones. Clearly my sort of planet. The second half dragged, including an interminable flight from Electra back to Orestes, and then a less than enthralling battle climax.

Oh and why was the novel entitled the "The Kindly Ones"? Recall your classical history, specifically the blood feud of the house of Atreus (and that's Atreus, not Atreides).

Loaded on the 5th May 2004.
Cover of The Kindly Ones
Cover art by Terry Pastor