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Sunday, February 6, 2011


Radiant (League of Peoples #7)
by James Alan Gardner
4/5 stars

It took me a while to finally get to this book.  I read the last of Gardner's Festina Ramos books 9 years ago and just hadn't gotten around to buying this.  Since it's been several years since this came out and there's no sequel, I guess we can say that (for now anyway) it's the end of the line.  And it was a pretty good end.

Like all of Gardner's books in this series it's told in first person.  Except for "Expendable" these have all featured someone other than Admiral Festina Ramos, but she always shows up.  "Radiant" is no exception to this.  The narrator in question is Youn Suu, who hails from a planet colonized by Burmese people.  When something went wrong in her bioengineering, she was left with a deformed left cheek--on her face of course.

This gets her into the Explorer Corps.  The Explorers are all disfigured in some way because some scientific studies determined that people feel the loss of an ugly person less acutely than an attractive one.  On Youn's first real assignment she goes to a planet that's being attacked by glowing red moss known as the Balrog.  There she meets Ramos and gets bitten by the Balrog, so that it begins taking over her body's cells.

From there Youn and Ramos follow a distress call to Muta, where a colony of scientists has disappeared.  As they go down to the surface, they're attacked by strange smoke monsters who emit EMP to disable electronics.  In the process of determining who these monsters are and what they want, Youn and Ramos make some discoveries about the universe--and themselves.

Unlike when I read "Trapped" last year, which was mostly a spin-off of the same universe, for this one you really need to have read the rest of the series.  Given that this is sort of an ending, there are references to stuff that happened in the previous Ramos stories--Expendable, Vigilant, Hunted, and Ascension.  Since I hadn't read those in almost a decade I was a bit lost at times in remembering what Gardner was referencing.

The good thing is that if you like light space opera, then you'd find this series enjoyable enough to start at the beginning.  Actually I'd like to reread "Expendable" at some point but my copy pretty much disintegrated a while ago.

My real complaint is sometimes there was a little too much conversation.  This sounds hypocritical because in my blog I have a few times complained how much I hate writing action scenes.  But a little less hypothesizing and a little more finding out what things were would have been nice.

Still, like the rest of the series it's light enough to make it a quick read.  Recommended if you like "Star Trek" or similar fare.  It's too bad that there don't seem to be more of these forthcoming, but "Radiant" makes for a good ending while leaving things open for the future.

That is all.

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