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by Kathy Tyers
Published by Bethany House, 2004
Highly Recommended by: Greg Slade
Orbiting Epsilon Eridani is a planet called Goddard, which is being terraformed, but something has gone wrong. Instead of continuing to grow warmer so that it can support life, Goddard is getting cooler, and is in danger of turning into an ice planet, no longer capable of being warmed, because the ice would reflect too much solar energy back into space. What is going wrong, and can it be fixed in time?
Graysha Brady-Phillips has been assigned to work for the terraforming project, ensuring that soil bacteria are properly balanced to bring about a self-supporting ecology, but something has gone wrong. Somebody knows about her mother, the commissioner of the Eugenics Board, and seems to be trying to use Graysha's own genetic disease to kill her. Who is trying to get rid of her, and what do they have to hide?
After much too long a hiatus to suit me, Kathy Tyers returns with her strongest work yet. The science is strong, most of the characters are compelling, and the plot builds tension without coming across as being contrived. Then, too, the story arc comes to a satisfying conclusion, while still leaving enough plot threads (and "bad guys") loose to justify a sequel. There is the obligatory "conversion" scene, but it develops naturally out of the story, rather than being a matter of "Only two chapters to go, time for this character to say the 'sinner's prayer.'"
As in her other works, Tyers also slips in a little humour from time to time:
"Trapped." He addressed a long rectangular pan covered by a metal grate and inhabited by a 30-centimeter female rodent. "What is it?" he demanded.
Graysha turned to the brown creature, which raised a whiskered nose to sniff the air. It probably expected to be fed whenever somebody passed nearby. "Those are yabuts."
"Some gene jockey's idea of a joke," she explained. "'Rabbit?' 'Ya, but...'" (p. 78)
The only gripe I have is that the motivation of the various "bad guys" isn't very well developed. These characters can be counted on to be antagonistic towards Graysha and her friends, but the reader never really gets a clear grasp of what drives them to do what they do.
In short, this is one of the better science fiction titles ever published by a CBA publisher, and if you are one of those who are prejudiced against CBA fiction, you owe it to yourself to see how good it can be. (May, 2006)
When trying to describe this book, the word that came to mind was "workmanlike," and I think that's a fitting description.* If you read mystery fiction, you"ve probably heard of "police procedurals." It's a subgenre grounded in quotidian reality, which describes ordinary police officers investigating a case, following regular procedures. Well, Shivering World is the science fiction version of that, except the main characters are scientists, politicians, and colonists, and the setting is a world which is being terraformed about two centuries from now.
Tyers gives the reader a lots of goodies – frequent but digestible doses of science (biochemistry and earth sciences, mostly), political intrigue, frontier life, adventure, personal relationships, ethical dilemmas, and some religious exploration. She's very effective at illustrating character motivations and interpersonal/familial conflicts. The viewpoint switches back and forth between a number of different characters, and we see how their individual understanding of events, their ambitions, and their fears bring them into conflict or concord. She's also good at working the science into conversations and everyday life of the characters. Tyers was trained as a microbiologist, so she includes a lot of that science and seems to know what she's talking about. She has an interesting way of addressing with our current ethical dilemmas while subverting the standard contemporary positions the people in this story are in desperate need of global warming, for example. Likewise, human genetic engineering is explored, but many of the characters have already been modified, and are now pondering whether it was worth it.
I didn't feel that there was anything overbearingly "evangelical" about this story (Tyers is a member of an Evangelical Free Church.) If you are a contemporary Westerner who is reflexively hostile to all things evangelical, then there are probably enough hints in this book to make you stomp away in disgust. But for the most part I thought she had a light touch. There are some conversations about God and the Gospel of John, but like the science it's woven seamlessly into the story. There is a Christian conversion, and even a sinner's prayer of sorts, but in a believable context for a complex character. The modest reticience of the Christian characters is appealing.
Casual sex is implied but not described. Tyers does not go out of her way to punish the characters which engage in it, though she does indicate some of the less desirable consequences. She's quite frank about sexual desire, particularly in her heroes.
There is an amoral atheist who is something of a villain, but she is not obviously punished in fact, she ends up as ally (albeit temporarily) to the protagonists. There is also a villain who's an amoral religious fanatic. And there are atheists, agnostics, Jews and even a Goddess-worshipper who come off as highly sympathetic characters.
* (I later learned that the late Ross Pavlac described Tyers' One Mind's Eye as "workmanlike" in his SF bibliography, a fact of which I was completely unaware. I guess it's corroborating evidence for the solidity of her style.) Eliot Hanowski (May, 2006)
With her life on the line in more ways than one, scientist Graysha Brady-Phillips volunteers to help terraform a new world. Relocation to the frozen planet of Goddard helps Graysha escape the stifling influence of her powerful, manipulative mother. It also offers a slim chance at finding a cure for her terminal condition. The settlers on Goddard are rumored to belong to a religious sect that has defied the interplanetary edict against any form of gene manipulation. Graysha needs healing on the genetic level, not only to survive, but to bear normal children. Internal sabotage of the terraforming attempt, along with external politicking, threaten the very existence of the young colony. Graysha must join forces with the enigmatic Chairman of Colonial Affairs, Lindon DalLierx, in a final perhaps futile stand against corporate greed and religious tyranny. Tyers is a genius at ratcheting up the stakes and layering the tension thick and high. The characters are gripping, the plot arresting, the story-telling impeccable. The book begs a sequel. Jill Nelson (January, 2005)
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