So, output has been sketchy of late because I discovered a good used book store while house-sitting for a friend a few weeks back, and I've had my nose in two trilogies.
What is it with trilogies in SF/Fantasy genre fiction? Is it some unspoken law, ever since Tolkien's monster epic had to be split into three separate volumes to avoid giving buyers a hernia, that any story has to be split into a three-book-long arc? Anyhow...
Don't let Elizabeth Moon's Heris Serrano fool you; it's really a trilogy, just available as a single volume trade paperback. The concept is an interesting one: According to the author, it was set into motion by a friend suggesting "Why not fox hunting and space ships?"
And so we get the tale of young Heris, scion of an illustrious naval family, who has resigned her commission due to a scandal and gets a job skippering a private yacht for a wealthy dowager who is absolutely gaga over hunting and jumping and the whole horsey social scene. So not only do you get enjoyable space opera, you also get family and navy politics (as well as regular old politics politics) and a quick and dirty education on what people find so fascinating about getting muddy while chasing critters across fields while clinging to the backs of big ungulates.
This trilogy's Third Book-itis comes from Moon getting fairly ambitious with the number of viewpoint characters and plot lines in the last book and then getting a little rushed in wrapping it all up. Still, it was a very enjoyable read.
The second trilogy was by Michael Flynn: Firestar, Rogue Star, and Lodestar. These were going to have a hard time living up to their hype, what with cover blurbs from multiple reviewers that compared Flynn's writing favorably to Heinlein. Plus, when my roommate saw the books, she said "Oh, I envy you! You get to read those for the first time!" The icing on the cake was the Amazon reviewer who said that they were the best books in their (admittedly small) genre; better even than my favorite, Kings of the High Frontier.
Well, it worked. The first book sucked me in so hard that I didn't come up for air for over a day. It's a near-future story that is largely set around one woman, the wealthy heiress to a commercial empire, who is absolutely phobic over the idea of a large asteroid striking Earth and who sets out to do something about it.
What gives the story its depth, however, is that she doesn't just wave her dollar wand and *poof* there's a spaceship and everybody rockets off into the future, happily ever after. Instead we have a sprawling, Clavell-esque tale, with multiple viewpoint characters spread across aerospace companies and educators, test pilots and poets, as our main protagonist subtly uses her influences to nudge humanity into space, save the world, and still show a good Return-On-Investment to keep the board of directors and her trust fund cousins happy.
Third Book-itis in this case comes from the fact that Flynn's first book in the series was released in '94 and the third in '00 and I'm reading them in '09. The danger of writing near-future is that it might be history by the time it gets read. If the story and characters are stand-alone, that's no problem; William Gibson's Neuromancer is just as much raw, seminal cyberpunk today as it was in 1984 and Heinlein's '50s juveniles sell out every time they're reprinted.
Flynn's first two books, being largely character-driven, hold up amazingly well. The third one, however, takes place almost twenty years after the first, and to emphasize the passage of time, he has to play up the slang, the styles, and the technology differences between 1999 and 2017, and doesn't pull it off as well as he could have. The "new" slang sounds forced and the "future" computer jargon seems a little dated and it obscures characters that we want to see more of. It's still worth the read, but it leaves you feeling like Flynn was punching far above his weight class in the first two books; I'll need to read more by him to find out.
Anyhow, it might be a couple days before I'm writing really productively again. Why? Two words: Diamond. Age.