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review 2019-08-18 12:09
For science!
Starfarers - Vonda N. McIntyre

I still take the wide range of the cast as the best part of this.


If you take the "scientists car-jack a self-sustaining space base and go exploring" plot thing away. Because you can't say that isn't all-around BAMF and likely the main reason why one would land in this series. (Oddly enough, it was not my case, but the fact that it was listed in a Tor article about books with older women in a central part of the plot).


And that's a maybe... I still like the fact that is scientists, mostly older, and mostly women characters, that compose the cast on a freaking space heist. For science!


Anyway, that comes late in the book. Mostly, we build on the political climate and the personal motivations that lead to that situation, and if you want action packed and get bothered by very flawed characters the book will loose you before then. I felt like shaking most of the people inside those pages more than once, and enjoyed myself immensely.


I though there was a lot of unbelievable political naivete in the alien contact expert (wouldn't you have to be good at politics, social studies and what-not for that?) and some stereotyping is going on that makes the whole feel a bit pulpy. But it's good pulp and I'm still wavering between four and five stars.

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text 2019-08-18 04:10
Reading progress update: I've read 190 out of 280 pages.
Starfarers - Vonda N. McIntyre

So far I'm loving the widely diverse cast and relationships, and all the way characters rub awkward, sometimes awesome, sometimes sweet, often making me impatient (and in Griffith's case, like wanting to maul him till death) and all around very human.


And there are these bits:


“Every time the argument about evolution comes along again, I start wondering what would happen if it were true that god invented fossils to fool us with. What if god’s got a sense of humor? If I were god, I’d plant a few fossils that wouldn’t fit into the scheme, just for fun.”
“And that’s what these are? Does that mean you’re playing god?”
“Artists always play god,” Crimson said.
“Don’t you believe in evolution?”
“That’s a tough word, ‘believe.’ Believing, and knowing what the truth is — you’re talking about two different things. Human beings are perfectly capable of believing one thing metaphorically, and accepting evidence for a completely different hypothesis. That’s the simplest definition of faith that I know. It’s the people who don’t have any faith, who can’t tell the difference between metaphor and reality, who want to force you to believe one thing only.”


That had me laughing and remembering Good Omens, and also parallels some of my vaguely agnostic thoughts.


Or things like this:


Under ordinary circumstances, they would never have had a hope of buying their house. Nobody living on ordinary incomes — even three ordinary incomes — could afford to buy property.


Which is wildly unfunny by how real it is.

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review 2008-09-11 00:00
Nautilus - Vonda N. McIntyre This finishes up the 4-volume Starfarer series...

Alien Contact specialist JD inherits a starship from a squidmoth, the Starfarer team meets the various alien inhabitants of a 4-planet system, and tries to get humanity accepted by interstellar Civilization, even as they deal with both political and interpersonal issues amongst themselves...
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review 2008-09-11 00:00
Starfarers - Vonda N. McIntyre First in a series of 4.
It could be humanity's most glorious accomplishment - an interstellar ship designed for a peaceful scientific mission of exploration and searching for sentient life elsewhere in the universe.
Unfortunately, international politics being as you might expect, not everything is running as smoothly as the researchers might wish - as a matter of fact, some countries have pulled out their personnel, funding to the ship has been cut, and there are plans afoot to scuttle the whole mission, arm the ship with nuclear devices and use it as an orbiting weapons platform, never to leave our solar system.
Against this background, the book focuses more on interpersonal relationships and politics than on action - we get to know Victoria, Satoshi and Stephen Thomas - partners in a multiethnic group marriage that old-timers find shocking and young folks feel is old-fashioned. Theoretical alien-contact specialist J.D. and her genetically altered 'diver' friend Zev. Elderly ex-General Cherenkov - former hero or terrorist? And possibly, the screwdriver in the works - undercover agent and militarist Griffith...

Good, but the book ends leaving you feeling like it's all a set-up for events yet to come... luckily I've got the next book!
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review 1990-01-01 00:00
Starfarers - Vonda N. McIntyre [These notes were made in 1990:]. It was the Canadian content of this that really got me going! Yes - truly; all the old clich├ęs are here, transposed a century or so in the future. One of the protagonists, Victoria McKenzie, is a Canadian. She's also black. She lives in a group marriage with a dandified young Caucasian called Stephen Thomas and a gentle, competent Asian called Satoshi. The other main protagonist is an "alien contact specialist" (female) called J.D. Sauvage. The significance of the name escapes me, for J.D. is the repository of all the natural human hopes, fears and hesitations in this novel: anything but savage. Anyway, the four of them (together with some interestingly delineated minor characters) contrive to baffle a bureaucratic plan to turn the huge research starship on which they live and work into a military facility. They do this by getting the starship (in its experimental stages) off to an early start, and the novel ends with the first hints of contact with an alien culture. If something as light as this can be said to have a theme, contact with the alien, and one's response to it, is the thread that runs through this book. J.D. is attached to a "diver" - a genetically transformed human who spends his life with whales. All three of the partners in the "marriage", while very close, are slightly alien to each other, and Victoria's Canadian-ness makes her non-threatening but ever-so-slightly-different to the American J.D. (I'm sure that's why it's in there. Canada comes out rather well in this novel - I wonder if McIntyre visited?) And then there's the Russian cosmonaut of a different age, and various people of the elder generation. Characterization is definitely McIntyre's strength in this novel. She expanded effortlessly on the ST characters, and does so here as well. And it doesn't hurt that she's politically correct as well! [Added note: October, 1992. Victoria McKenzie; Vonda McIntyre. Hmm!]
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