Up to Eric's Home Page To Index Wed Mar 14 12:58:45 EST 1990

Raymond's Reviews #21

%T Sassinak
%A Anne McCaffrey, Elizabeth Moon
%I Baen Books
%D March 1990
%O paperback, US$4.95
%P 333
%G 0-671-69863-X

Sassinak the slavegirl lucks into the interstellar Fleet's acadamy, trains, graduates, and goes off to fight space pirates in a nice shiny battlecruiser. The narrative, such as it is, goes by near as fast as that summary. There's adventure, intrigue, sex, and lots of things going boom.

You know, there are months when I suspect that Baen books has a military-fiction quota system -- so many words per quarter of interchangeable bad guys getting offed by plucky misfits-made-good wielding designer assortments of sexy hardware.

That's unfair, of course. Writers like Lois McMaster Bujold can make powerful literature playing off the military-SF form. Writers like David Drake, on the other hand, can slant it into a kind of gut-wrenching carnography that's as unforgettable as a kick in the face (and, in my opinion, considerably more dangerous to the ethical health than Debbie Does Dallas).

Most of the Baen output (and military fiction in general) occupies a middle ground, neither literature nor carno but a form of power-fantasy escapism that removes some of the guilt and threat from untrammelled power fantasies by embedding them in the rigidly structured context of a military organization. Litterateurs may sneer at this, but I refuse to -- opening that fantasy-escape safety valve has been an important function of storytellers since our ancestors chewed mammoth-steaks around guttering campfires.

Sassinak is a typical example of this middle ground, with a twist -- it has two female authors, a female protagonist and is obviously aimed at the female market. Anne McCaffrey, of course, is well-known for the Pern books, and Elizabeth Moon has made quite a splash recently with The Deeds Of Paksenarion (a considerably-better-than-average fantasy trilogy featuring a female paladin as the viewpoint character in a Tolkien-like world).

I suppose there could even have been a really good book in here somewhere. Unfortunately this one isn't written as competently as most of its type, which is surprising given the authors' track records -- it reads as though it was dashed off in a hurry with both of their minds on something else, and thus comes off as exactly the kind of yard goods Baen is often slammed for peddling. It should surprise no one that the ending hints heavily of sequels yet to come.

A Sassinak series. Yawn. Well. Maybe Baen will use the money it makes to publish something more interesting...

Up to Eric's Home Page To Index Wed Mar 14 12:58:45 EST 1990

Eric S. Raymond <esr@snark.thyrsus.com>