Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Willing Suspension of Disbelief - TRR Reviews Marquette & Bigelow

Across the wide world of fiction, readers are often asked to believe a premise that they would never accept in the real world. This is especially true in genres such as Fantastika, science fiction, space opera, and paranormal, where things and events happen in the story that most people would not believe for a second if they were presented in a newspaper as fact.

Of course, one could make the argument that it holds true for a large portion of the lesbian erotica hitting the market these days.

In order to fully engage in and enjoy such stories, readers participate in a phenomenon known as "willing suspension of disbelief.” This is a semi-conscious decision in which we put aside our disbelief, and accept the premise as being real and plausible for the duration of the story.

Apt examples of the willing suspension of disbelief include menopausal werewolves, hot lesbian couples having simultaneous orgasms in a rainstorm under a double rainbow, and the fact that I’m forty-six and just bought my first pair of flip-flops.

The very concept of willing suspension of disbelief is a product of Samuel Taylor Coleridge. In 1817 he published what has become one of the landmark examples of literary criticism with his Biographia Literaria; or Biographical Sketches of My Literary Life and Opinions.

"In this idea originated the plan of the ‘Lyrical Ballads’, in which it was agreed, that my endeavours should be directed to persons and characters supernatural, or at least romantic, yet so as to transfer from our inward nature a human interest and a semblance of truth sufficient to procure for these shadows of imagination that willing suspension of disbelief for the moment, which constitutes poetic faith." 
                                                                                 — Samuel Taylor Coleridge

And this is why the willing suspension of disbelief frames the premise for my review of the newest episode of a classic lesbian space opera and the launch of a fresh new Fantastika series—Andi Marquette’s The Edge of Rebellion and Susan Jane Bigelow’s The Daughter Star.

Book: The Edge of Rebellion
Author: Andi Marquette
Publisher: Bedazzled Ink Publishing

Andi Marquette’s The Edge of Rebellion is book three in the feisty little Far Seek Chronicles. Trader Torri Rendego keeps her ear to the ground as she runs merchant routes, and the chatter tells her that a rebellion is simmering across the Coalition. Her former Academy bunkmate and inamorata, Commander Kai Tinsdale, receives orders to post to the Koto military base on the planet Hanzey. Kai hears the rumors of rebellion, but knows that one is unlikely on the virtually impassible jungle planet. Once there, her orders suddenly change, and she is tasked with training a battle squadron. Clearly something is going on, and Kai must use her wiles and wisdom to seek answers from those around her. But the fates conspire to bring Torri and her Far Seek shipmates to Hanzey, as they deliver an unexpected visitor. As Kai and Torri reconnect on a physical and emotional level, they begin to piece the puzzle together, and learn they are being used as pawns in a game of chess that could bring the Coalition to its collective knees.

Typical of the genre, The Edge of Rebellion is set in a far future space faring civilization, where the technology is ubiquitous and entirely secondary to the storyline. It has two dashing, epic heroines, the universe is huge, there are diverse, sprawling civilizations and fleets of space ships capable of interstellar travel, and there are political conflicts, rebel attacks, black markets, heinous crimes, and intrigue galore.

Since The Edge of Rebellion is the third book in the Far Seek Chronicles, readers have had ample opportunity to get familiar with the pasts and presents of Kai and Torri, the Far Seek and her crew, the Empire, and the Coalition. Still, it is refreshing to see Kai and Torri advancing their relationship with the caution that is expected of two women on different life missions, but sharing one like mind. As a reader, I found the setting and the construction of dialogue to be fascinating, adding depth and definition to both primary and secondary characters. Whether describing the planet, the BetaSuns, the Far Seek, or Major Vic’s office, there was always a visual reference to make the scenes come to life. Additionally, I truly appreciate the care taken by the author to create different languages (i.e., Empire and Coalition,) and then religiously write dialogue that follows the rules established for their use, while saving contemporary dialogue for intimate and familiar situations.

Andi Marquette offers up another satisfying slice of her space opera, Far Seek Chronicles, and The Edge of Rebellion unabashedly makes me feel like a kid again. It tells a compelling and exciting story of intrigue with solid characters, smart dialogue, best buddies, sexy women, and zooming space ships that whiz by shooting lasers that go “Pew! Pew! Pew!” A lot of readers will bypass books like this because they don’t take them seriously. But, here’s the thing: you don’t have to be a kid to feel like a kid, and books like this are all about having fun. Andi Marquette writes a grown up story with grown up themes, but she can still find a way to let her readers have fun and feel like kids. 

Book: The Daughter Star
Author: Susan Jane Bigelow
Publisher: Candlemark & Gleam

Freighter pilot Marta Grayline has a great life doing what she loves, a smoking hot military pilot girlfriend from a desirable sister planet, and an excuse to avoid her home planet, her sexist home country, and her overbearing parents. But it all begins to crumble when an illogical intrasystem war forces her employer to disband, and she is required to return to her home planet. Marta doesn’t belong in the world of her birth, and her parents do not support her profession or her choices.

Along with her youngest sister, Beth, Marta sneaks off and joins the Novan Emergency Fleet as a way to break free and return to her beloved space. However, Beth isn’t the same young woman she remembers. As Marta slowly begins to decipher the connection between her sister and the mysterious Abrax, she is forced to confront unexpected alien forces, overcome her internal doubts and fears, complete an ill-defined mission, and unravel centuries old lies, deceptions, and masterful illusions.

As a proprietress of Fantastika, Susan Jane Bigelow is unquestionably skilled at writing epic pieces full of mythic themes—The Daughter Star is a worthy example of her ability. She captures and maintains an honest sense of relationships, even as she writes characters who are nonconformists, and longing to have closer, deeper involvements.

The character of Marta is smart, sexy, interesting, and capable, but she is unable to truly appreciate and understand all that she has to offer. While her restrictive and uninspiring upbringing is partially to blame, so too is her overwhelming lack of self-confidence—an odd yet well-plotted personality trait for a highly capable pilot. Her relationship with her younger sister is multi-faceted, at times presenting mutual interest and engagement, and at others revealing self-absorption and non-confrontational tendencies—it is as if Marta cannot control the need to protect and shelter her younger sister any more than she can stop pushing away those that try to do the same for her.

While The Daughter Star starts out a bit slow, a necessary byproduct of character design and plot development, the pace accelerates into a speeding, taut story full of political, moral, intellectual, economic, environmental and societal metaphors relevant to myriad issues now facing mankind. Ms. Bigelow confronts a familiar dichotomy in the LGBT community by placing Marta, a lesbian who fears her family and home country knowing the truth, in a greater human and alien culture that accepts these relationships as part of societal norm. In essence, Marta has a foot in two disparate worlds, leaving her struggling to achieve and maintain a healthy balance.

Ultimately, The Daughter Star is an engaging story that leaves the reader much in the same position as Marta—unbalanced. While we get to know Marta, Beth, and the Abrax, we are never truly allowed to connect on an emotional level with any of them. Still, this is only the first book in a series, and it feels somehow intentional that we are not allowed to know more about the characters than they know about themselves. And, as a reviewer, I believe that readers who are patient and trust Ms. Bigelow to complete the journey she and her characters have started will be well rewarded when this series reaches its conclusion.

1 comment: