Friday, April 12, 2013

Singing the Dogstar Blues

Earlier this year I read two novels by Alison Goodman (Eon and Eona) that I absolutely loved. The imagery, the complete construction of a vivid world and narrative, and the character development, just resonanted with me. Based on this, I decided to read her first published novel entitled Singing the Dogstar Blues. The online reviews painted a picture of a light and quirky book. In addition, the book won several awards in both the young adult and science fiction categories. Based on this, I decided to dive into this one.

Indeed the story is a bit quirky. It involves the deepening friendship between an 18 year old girl named Joss Aaronson and an alien named Mavkel from the planet Choria. The first contact between the two planets is fairly new, and the governments of the two peoples feel that a good way to build relationships between the two cultures is through an exchange of technology. Specifically, the pairing of Joss and Mavkel at the Center of Neo-Historical Studies at the University of Australia where the world's first time machine institute has been established. Joss and Mavkel are made partners and are set to go through the training courses together. The conflicts in the story center around the purported scientist behind the discovery, Daniel Sunawa-Harrod, and the Director of the center, Joseph Harrod-Stone, the relationship between the "normal" students on campus and those who have been genetically engineered, and between Joss and her detached mother.

The mental and physical state of Mavkel is uncertain as his birth twin died some time ago. Chorian society is based on their transgendered adults. When a mating occurs, both parents give birth to a child. The children form a bonded pair whose ESP and mind connections sustain them both throughout their lives. Usually when one of the pair dies, the other passes soon after. Without Mavkel's birth partner, he finds himself cut off from the mental bonds of his people. Yet there is something about Joss that Mavkel mind connects with, and that point is developed within the story.

So, is the story quirky? You bet. Worthy of significant awards? No. There is nothing that makes this one stand out. But it was a fun, quick read. However, what really astounded me after reading this book is how much Goodman has developed as a story teller between her first book published in 1998 and her masterful Eon/a tales written a decade later.