Friday, July 18, 2008

Wrapt in Crystal; Sharon Shinn

Hmmm. Another book I’ve put off writing up. Are you surprised? No? Well I’ll get on with it, shall I? This is one of Ms. Shinn’s stand alones, put out by Ace in 1999. It’s a neat kind of sci fi-mystery hybrid albeit with a surprising amount of religion and philosophy thrown in just to throw you a loop when you were least expecting it. The hero is a deep thinker, the kind of person who’d be a fascinating dinner companion. Sorry about the poor image, it's one of the few I could find for this title. Still, thanks to Amazon.

Ms. Shinn has peopled her universe with humans who’ve spread out across the stars, taking their Old World culture and customs with them. Naturally there must also be a unifying, giant, nearly faceless bureaucracy, in this instance peopled with members called Moonchildren. The basic plot goes thusly: small isolated European (specifically Spanish) type planet suddenly has a spate of murders. There are a small number of Moonchild diplomats on planet negotiating over a possible treaty wherein Semay might join the federation of planets. The governor of Semay (can’t remember if that’s his title, I forgot to write his name down) asks for an investigator to come out and help in the investigation.

The investigator in question would be Lt. Cowen Drake. Late thirties or so, usual quasi military type who looks good in a uniform. Not a mindless, soulless cog in the machine though. You’ll just have to find out for yourself. Drake is behind the eight ball by the time he lands, unfortunately. There have been quite a few murders, equal numbers of members of the two predominant religious sects on Semay. Then there’s the only female Moonchild stranded on Semay, who’s a little lonely for some male attention.

Poor Drake. Has to learn the language. Figure out the two religions. Convince the locals he really does know what he’s doing. Fend off the lonely Moonchild. Find the murderer before he or she strikes again. Figure out where the missing young lady went. Fill in the blanks and connect the dots, all in three hundred odd pages. Oh yes- and he needs to find something to fill the holes in his soul.

Wonderful book. Don’t know what I was expecting but Ms. Shinn managed to surprise me.

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