Wednesday, November 13, 2013
Almost Regency: a Speculative Fiction Lover’s Guide
So, it's pretty well-documented in my book reviews that my biggest literary loves are two: romances, and speculative fiction.
I know the two genres don't always appeal to the same cross-section of readers, but I thought it'd be fun to make a list for those of you like me, who have a love of both – or for those of you whose curiosity might be piqued by the idea of courtly love . . . in space!
So, let me introduce you to a few novels that blend the comedy of manners with imaginative vistas of other worlds.
(Note: none of these books are explicitly Christian, and may contain material offensive to some readers. I personally think the good stuff in them still makes them well worth reading, but parents, give them a look over before handing them off to teenagers.)
-My favorite book dedication of all time comes at the front of Lois McMaster Bujold’s “A Civil Campaign” and reads: “For Jane, Charlotte, Georgette, and Dorothy: Long may they rule”. The luminaries mentioned are, of course, Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, Georgette Heyer, and Dorothy Sayers, and this intelligent and hilarious tale of courtship in a high-tech world is worthy of those great mistresses of the comedy of manners.
-The Liaden books written by the husband and wife team of Steve Miller and Sharon Lee feature an aristocratic society full of archaic rules of behavior . . . remind anyone of the London ton? The resemblance isn’t an accident, as the authors’ blog proves they’re fans of Georgette Heyer. Newcomers to the series should start with “Agent of Change”, wherein the high-born spy Val Con meets the mercenary Miri Robertson. This prince-meets-pauper tale should please fans of the familiar Regency romance trope of high-born noble falling for the commoner.
-Moving on to fantasy, I can't recommend Megan Whalen Turner's Thief series highly enough. Though there's no romance in the first volume, there's the fiercest of courtships in The Queen of Attolia. Wow. And the King of Attolia gives you a bit of a glimpse - through a stranger's eyes - of how that romance continued.
-And in the oldie-but-goodie category? Beauty, by Robin McKinley. If you haven't read it, go and treat yourself. McKinley was retelling fairy tales before retelling fairy tales was cool. And if you like Beauty, you should probably give her Spindle's End a try next.
Sadly, that's the end of my list of speculative fiction that gives almost-equal time to the romance. But if you want some speculative fiction that still has a strong thread of romance running through the story, let me recommend:
-Julie Czerneda. Her most famous sci-fi-and-romance pairing is probably found in To Trade the Stars, but for my money, the slow-simmering romance between biologist and spy in the Survival series is tops.
-Another Bujold: though I like Curse of Chalion for all kinds of reasons that have nothing to do with romance, and everything to do with my love of good theological fantasy, it does have a quiet romance (or two) lilting through its pages.
So, those are my top picks when it comes to love in the spec. fic. world. Let me know if you know of any others I should check out!
Peace of Christ to you,