Turning The Pages

This week I’m continuing with last time’s Canadian author theme, but I’ll try to branch out a bit in future!

The latest re-release by Robert J. Sawyer, Canada’s only full-time, lifelong Canadian science-fiction author, is another thoroughly enjoyable read. Foreigner is the third (and final!) book in Sawyer’s Quintaglio Ascension trilogy. The first two books, Farseer and Fossil Hunter, start us off reading about intelligent dinosaurs who live on the moon of a gas giant (trust me, it gets better. Once you accept the premise, the books take off).

This third novel is about the Catholic Church’s approach to abortion and birth control, though I had to read some blubs about the book on the author’s web-site (http://www.sfwriter.com) to find that out. I thought it was about the Quintaglios’ equivalent to Freud, and the invention of (alien) psychoanalysis, as well as European/Aboriginal North American first contact, and how assuming that our culture is the “one true way” is always a mistake. Either way, it’s a great story.

Conflict is always the driving force of fiction, of course. Without it, you have life, which is (for most of us) a lot less interesting. Sawyer uses a character’s internal conflicts, as well as the imminent destruction of the Quintaglios’ home moon, to keep things moving. One character has chronic insomnia; another is hurt that her long-lost daughter doesn’t really care about their biological connection (while the mother does care. A lot). Yet another character makes contact with another breed of dinosaur-like beings whose very appearance drives his countrymen into a killing rage! Keeping a war from happening is enough conflict and intrigue for anyone.

Sawyer (whose writing awards are as numerous as they are prestigious) has done it again with Foreigner. His characters, while completely alien, are also eminently believable. The culture is alien enough to cause readers to think, yet internally consistent, and seamlessly matched to the alien biology and psychology.

Not only is this book of Sawyer’s engaging and thought provoking, but his web-site is also an experience to remember. And best of all, on this site you can read the first chapters of all of his books, whetting your appetite for more Sawyer. The site also includes tips for professional writing in general, and is one of the oldest writer’s web-sites on the Internet. It has lasted because Sawyer’s work has lasted. His books will be read for years. Some lucky students get to study his writing at university; I only hope AU offers a contemporary Canadian literature course that includes some of Sawyer’s books, like Calculating God (in my opinion, his best), or Illegal Alien (think To Kill a Mockingbird meets Babylon 5).

Foreigner has international intrigue, imminent planet-wide disaster, discovery of ancient high technology, estranged family, discovery of a new continent, and psychoanalysis of an alien. What more could you ask for in a few hundred pages? Give it a try. I really recommend it.

Got a suggestion for a book that should appear here? We’re glad to read ’em!

Sawyer, R. (1994, 2005). Foreigner. New York: TOR Books.
— (1993, 2005). Fossil Hunter. New York: TOR Books.
— (1992, 2004) Farseer. New York: TOR Books.
— (2000). Calculating God. New York: TOR Books.

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