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The Door into Summer

Robert A. Heinlein, science fiction, 1957


Dan, the protagonist of The Door into Summer, is an electronics engineer living in the 70's. A brilliant inventor and engineer, he's the creator of a household robot he calls Hired Girl, which is immensely popular. But as he develops more domestic robots, he's betrayed by his business partners and sent thirty years into the future through cryogenic sleep.

Probably the most appealing part of The Door into Summer is the protagonist himself--Dan is laid back, clever, and most of all, likeable. When he's awoken in 2000 he decides against trying to get a job as an engineer immediately:

I had avoided admitting that I was, or used to be, an engineer--to claim that I was now an engineer would be too much like walking up to du Pont's and saying, "Sirrah, I am an alchymiste. Hast need of art such as mine?"


There's a lot of time manipulation in this one, going both ways with cold-sleep and then time travel. In a few places Dan explains what he means by 'the door into summer', and the novel opens with an adorable story. His cat Pete has a quest, during a snowy Connecticut winter, trying all the external doors to find one that leads into summer, badgering Dan to open all eleven doors of the house. In the same way, forced into the future and trying to untangle the mess that's been made by his business partners, Dan's looking for his own door into summer.

For a modern reader, one of the biggest appeals is seeing how closely Heinlein's vision of 2000 was. In 2000 we had certainly not beat the common cold, we had zippers, the UK had not become a province of Canada (though Dan is understandably flabbergasted at this), but the Berlin Wall had fallen and the USSR dissolved, which must be a similar shock. AutoCAD came out in 1982, and we moved wholesale from drafting on paper to drafting virtual copies; Dan invents a keyboard-operated drafting table, which is similar. You can buy gold now. (In fact, it's down a little, but people use it to hedge investments.)

I had a couple of specific issues with the book--Ricky, and on a really nitpicky note, history. Even if his name was Leonard Vincent and he might have gone 500 years back or forward (presumably, backwards), the 'da Vinci' isn't a surname inherited from a parent, it's a place name. A byname. That bugged me.

Oh, Ricky. SHE IS ELEVEN WHEN YOU ASK, DAN, you've been her uncle for all her life, even if she grows up ten years, she's making you the promise now, while you're thirty and she's eleven. That squicks me out, I have to say.

Other than that, it's really a fun book to read, and with the exception of the antagonists, most characters have a heart of gold underneath. 8/10, 291 pages.


----

Blue Magic

A. M. Dellamonica, fantasy/dystopia, 2012


The sequel to Indigo Springs, Blue Magic continues to follow Astrid Lethewood and her struggle to release the vitagua. Once a gardener in a tiny town in Oregon, Astrid discovers that under her house flows a thawing river of vitagua, blue liquid magic. Frozen and sequestered long ago to protect its magical inhabitants, vitagua flowing out in such large quantities is contaminating everything. Trees grow to massive heights, insects swell to giants, and people start turning into animals involuntarily. Lethewood, like her father before her, can use the vitagua to enchant objects to do all sorts of magical things--heal sicknesses, make gold, hide people. In Indigo Springs the magical well in Lethewood's house explodes open, unleashing vitagua upon the surrounding area and creating a massive disaster.

In Blue Magic, the U.S. Armed Forces are trying to battle both the infections and put on trial Sahara Knax, Lethewood's former friend who has stolen the enchanted items (chantments) and has created a cult around herself. Will Forest, a negotiator with the army, joins Astrid to try to find his children; his wife is part of Sahara's Alchemists and has hidden them somewhere.

Adding to the pressure are the people within the vitagua world. The world where vitagua was sequestered also contains the frozen people who were once magic users; it used to be fairies, but these days many of them are First Nations. They want out, and so Astrid is under pressure to simultaneously re-release the vitagua back into the world, and do so very slowly to prevent disastrous events that full on contamination causes. The novel develops into a war where Astrid and her group of people--teachers, engineers, friends, neighbours, many strangers--try to handle the vitagua disaster. At the other end, the air force is bombing Indigo Springs, where they are headquartered; and most critically, a second group of opponents shows up again--Fyremen, whose mission is to destroy vitagua and anyone who wields it.

For two books, the plot is actually really complicated. The Library Journal calls it an "ecofantasy", which sums up vitagua very well, but to me the novel is centered not on the magic--as fascinating as the vitagua is--but on all the different forces working on Astrid. Astrid is the focus because she's the well-wizard, the person controlling the vitagua. For all Sahara's theatrics and proselytizing, Sahara's not the one with the power; she's just using the tools other chanters have made. Indigo Springs ends with a standoff with Astrid and co. against the police; now the armed forces have been brought in, partly in response to Sahara sinking an aircraft carrier. The pressure from the people trapped in the vitagua world is spearheaded by Teoquan, a hot-headed leader, and balanced out by Elizabeth Walks-in-Shadow, the first chanter in the town of Indigo Springs, who is more sympathetic to the problems that massive releases of vitagua cause. Even within Astrid's loose organization of people who are working to try to control the outbreak, digging tunnels to release into the sea or just as scientists or nurses, there is dissent. Mark Clumber, one of Astrid's friends and her second-in-command, is viewing the whole endeavour a military one, something that Astrid is desperately trying to avoid.

Interestingly, vitagua seems neither good nor bad. Like many fantasy novels, the inhabitants of the frozen vitagua world once walked on Earth amongst humans, but were driven in when the witch-hunting started. Most of the European magical creatures (fairies) were killed and burnt, but the ones in North America--mostly First Nations peoples--managed to escape by freezing themselves. The vitagua, which used to reside in everyone in miniscule quantities (concentrated in those considered 'magical'), was suctioned out of the world and frozen. Astrid, pouring vitagua into household objects, makes chantments that can only be called miraculous; one raiding party goes out and sprays a hospital with the chantment, curing all the patients inside. But being splashed with so much gives Astrid's Pop, Ev, powers that he can't deal with, and he retreats into delusion.

The other stand-out part of the book was the diversity of the cast. The cast is really big, first; Astrid's organization is very large, and Dellamonica brings that out by having dozens of characters appear as Astrid goes about her rounds. But Astrid's Pop is FtM, her neighbour Patience Skye is First Nations, Juanita Corazón (a US Marshal) is Hispanic, and both Astrid and Sahara are bisexual, to reel off a few. It really gives the novel a modern feel, and more realistic, since Astrid's drawing people from all over the globe.

Like Indigo Springs before it, this book bowled me over with the action. Somewhat more mixed afterwards, but a really intriguing dystopian/fantasy book. 7/10, 382 pages.


Crosspost: http://silverflight8.dreamwidth.org/133864.html.

Comments

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
kmo_lj
Jul. 8th, 2013 04:10 pm (UTC)
i hadn't heard of either Blue Magic or Indigo Springs, but they both sound really cool, definitely the type of books I would enjoy. adding to my list! i definitely love stories that blur the connections between fantasy and the mundane world, especially if they aren't part of the whole "vampires and werewolves walk among us" genre of paranormal romance/urban fantasy.
silverflight8
Jul. 8th, 2013 06:54 pm (UTC)
Yeah, it's definitely on the same lines of urban fantasy (magic in modern day), but at the same time completely different. It felt like my world was being turned upside down after Indigo Springs, though admittedly I finished that book at 2am which might have contributed >.<
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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